It did not take very long for the Palestinian Authority to make its unequivocal rejection of a Jewish State crystal clear following the pomp and circumstance of resumed negotiations between it and Israel in Washington last week.
Dr Nabeel Shaath - a member of the Palestinian Negotiating Team, the Fatah Central Committee and the Palestinian Legislative Council - told a press conference in Ramallah on 7 September:
“The Palestinian National Authority will never recognise that Israel is the national state for Jewish people, as such recognition will directly threaten the Muslim and Christian Palestinians in Israel, and will prevent the Palestinian refugees who left their homes and towns decades ago, from the right to return,”
Dr Shaath’s forthrightness and honesty is refreshing but clearly indicates that any further negotiations with the Palestinian Authority are a total waste of time.
The Palestinian Authority is apparently hell bent on challenging and confronting President Obama whose National Security Strategy released by the White House in May 2010 declared that the United States would seek two states that will live in peace and security:
“a Jewish state of Israel, with true security, acceptance, and rights for all Israelis and a viable, independent Palestine with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people.”
President Obama had also previously made it clear that sentiments such as those expressed by Dr Shaath are completely unacceptable.
Speaking as a then Senator at a Foreign Policy Forum in Des Moines Iowa on 18 December 2007 the future President stated:
“I think everyone knows what the basic outlines of an agreement would look like. It would mean that the Palestinians would have to reinterpret the notion of right of return in a way that would preserve Israel as a Jewish state. It might involve compensation and other concessions from the Israelis but ultimately Israel is not going to give up its state.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an address on 29 April 2010 had also made it perfectly clear that:
“Since our first day in office, the Obama Administration has made the pursuit of peace and secure and recognized borders for Israel a priority because that is, we believe, the best way to safeguard Israel’s long-term future as a democratic Jewish state.”
Dr Shaath’s statement also constitutes a rebuff to former President George W Bush who assured Israel’s then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a letter dated 14 April 2004:
“The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state.”
Dr Shaath has effectively reiterated the long held position of the Palestinian Authority’s surrogate parent - the Palestine Liberation Organization - whose Charter declares:
“Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.”
Dr Shaath’s remarks also operate as a clear rejection of a statement made by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel’s Parliament in July 2010:
“The first thing [in negotiations] is Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. When we are talking about a solution of two states for two peoples, one of these peoples is the Jewish people. It is not some Israeli people, it is the Jewish people.”
With negotiations set to resume between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on 14 September in Sharm El Sheikh - Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to then make it absolutely clear that the Palestinian Authority’s stance - as represented by Dr Shaath’s statement - is completely unacceptable to Israel and that Israel will immediately suspend any further negotiations with the Palestinian Authority until it unreservedly disassociates itself from Dr Shaath’s remarks.
Prime Minister Netanyahu was effusive in lauding the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas as his “partner in peace” in Washington just one week ago.
How this façade can be maintained in the face of a clear statement refusing to acknowledge Israel’s continuing existence as a Jewish State is totally incomprehensible.
It is to be hoped that President Obama will be similarly outspoken and condemn Dr Shaath’s remarks perhaps by repeating the words of concern spoken by him in response to the planned burning of the Koran by Pastor Terry Jones:
“It is absolutely important now for the overwhelming majority of American people to hang on to that thing that is best in us - that is our belief in religious tolerance …”
The Palestinian Authority’s position represents a serious threat to the fragile stability in the region. It makes the continuation of any further negotiations meaningless.
Was Dr Shaath’s statement endorsed by the Arab League? If not - then a strong statement from the Arab League distancing itself from those remarks should also be forthcoming.
The inability of the Arabs to accept a Jewish State in the midst of 21 Islamic Arab states has always been at the heart of resolving the Arab-Jewish conflict.
Dr Shaath’s remarks show that nothing has changed in the Arab psyche that would lead one to hope that Jew-hatred will be replaced by an appreciation that the Jewish state is here to stay.
Suspension of direct negotiations is realistically the only option available to Israel until the Palestinian Authority disavows itself of Dr Shaath’s racist and totally unacceptable remarks.
The Palestinian Authority will have signed its own death warrant if it refuses to do so.