Ruling on Jerusalem

The US Supreme Court must once again uphold the Constitution, international law, and established policy

An Israeli flag flutters in Jerusalem


Once again the United States Supreme Court is preparing to review a case which could reshape one of the most sensitive of American policy issues: the status of Jerusalem. Zivotofsky v Kerry is a lawsuit brought on behalf of an 11-year-old Jewish child born in Jerusalem. Current American law and practice, particularly State Department instructions to consular officials, holds that because of American neutrality on the question of Jerusalem, those born in Jerusalem should simply be identified as having been born in that city. The Zivotofsky family seeks to have their son identified as having been born in “Jerusalem, Israel.”

A lower court has already struck down other parts of a 2002 law allowing for US passports to include the identification of birthplace as “Jerusalem, Israel.” All previous efforts to get courts to force the State Department to take this step have been refused by all administrations and backed up by the judiciary. But the legislative branch continues to attempt, for political reasons, to circumvent this position. It’s imperative that the Court continue to support the administration’s position, which upholds more than 60 years of US policy, international law, and the basic US constitutional principle of separation of powers.

Since 1948, no country has recognized Israel’s control of Jerusalem, which is why all foreign embassies in Israel are based in Tel Aviv or other cities. A few, such as El Salvador and Costa Rica, briefly moved their embassies to Jerusalem, but have since withdrawn. The reason is that Jerusalem’s status under international law is unresolved. The last time the international community addressed the question in a positive manner was in the 1947 partition plan which declared the city a “corpus separatum” – in effect, an independent city-state to be administered by the United Nations.

The 1948 war put paid to that idea, but the status of Jerusalem was not determined by either armistice lines, the entrance of Israel as a member state of the United Nations, or the recognition of Israel and diplomatic relations with it by the majority of international powers. This ambiguity was expressed by the presence of the embassies in Tel Aviv, even though Israel had come into possession of West Jerusalem and established its capital there.

The situation became even more complex following the 1967 war, when East Jerusalem was conquered by Israel and subsequently annexed. This de facto annexation was roundly rejected by the entire international community, including the United States, and particularly expressed through a long series of unambiguous United Nations Security Council resolutions. Most notable of these was the June 1980 Resolution 476, which “[r]eaffirms the overriding necessity to end the prolonged occupation of Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including Jerusalem.”

All relevant UN Security Council resolutions since Israel extended its “Basic Law” to the municipal boundaries of East Jerusalem it established, much bigger than the municipal boundaries that existed before, have declared that de facto annexation to be “null and void.” US policy, established by every administration since Harry Truman’s, has been absolutely consistent: the future of Jerusalem is to be determined.

Since 1993, Jerusalem has been a core part of the four agreed-upon final status issues to be resolved through direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. The US is the primary third-party broker between Israel and the Palestinians. Therefore it, above all, cannot be seen as prejudicing final status issues.

The American Congress repeatedly tries to circumvent all of this and prejudice the issue of Jerusalem, abandoning traditional US policy and core international law by passing legislation designed to force the administration to move the embassy to Jerusalem, recognize “Jerusalem, Israel” on passports, and similar measures. Such steps violate both the letter and the spirit of the constitutional separation of powers by usurping the executive’s role as the authority that determines American foreign policy. These laws almost always come with a presidential waiver, which is also invariably enforced. This way Members of Congress are able to reassure their constituents that they are doing the best they can, while keeping an important loophole in place that allows foreign policy to be determined by the executive branch as the Constitution mandates.

When he signed the law now being reviewed – again – by the Supreme Court, President George W. Bush was at pains to say “US policy regarding Jerusalem has not changed.”

If the American judiciary allows the legislative branch of the government to force the executive to change an extremely sensitive and important policy that has stood for over 60 years, it will be a constitutional travesty. It will also be a serious blow to the US viability as a third-party broker that urges both sides not to prejudice final status issues. We will have done just that ourselves, in a capricious and indefensible manner. The Supreme Court must rule to uphold international law, long-established US policy, and the separation of powers. Any other decision will do grievous harm to all three.

The heresy of equivalency

Israelis and Palestinians, and their friends, take unique umbrage at anything that suggests equivalency between them

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas.

If there’s one kind of argument that’s guaranteed to lose friends and annoy people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide, it is anything that attacks binary notions of difference and points out areas in which the two sides and their partisans think and act in very similar ways. In recent years, I’ve found myself increasingly attracted to frameworks that invariably end up highlighting what the parties have in common rather than what separates them. And in the process, I’ve discovered that while there is little that is more revealing about the underlying structures of the conflict – which are not so much binary as mutually reinforcing – there’s  also nothing more provocative than pointing this out.

It’s the ultimate heresy, because it cuts through the fog of ideology and into the underlying realities in a way that disrupts the easy assumptions that ensure the conflict continues no matter what.

First, it’s counterintuitive. These are, after all, supposed to be two radically different peoples and cultures, at loggerheads because of these same differences. Pointing out how their attitudes, policies, narratives, rhetoric, and behavior can often mirror each other and – more than just re-inscribing a self-reinforcing binary – often seem entirely analogous, profoundly challenges that sense of radical alterity. It suggests that beneath the surface there is a deep similarity in attitudes and behaviors at work, and this seems the ultimate in intolerable speech to partisans on both sides.

I find that whenever this gesture is deployed, partisans sputter with anger that anyone could compare the two at any level. They typically resort to arguments about what one hasn’t mentioned, and all the important things that actually define the fundamental, irreconcilable differences. In order to re-establish the binary, they seem to feel it is crucial to reassert the truth-value of their own narrative in stark contrast to that of the other. And if you have challenged this, you must be up to no good.

Second, it threatens the sense of moral superiority that pervades attitudes on both sides. This means it’s not just extremists who become annoyed with such arguments. It can often be people well within the mainstream of pro-Israel and pro-Palestine discourse who take umbrage at any sense of “equivalency,” especially “moral equivalency.”

It appears to be vital to believing in their causes to rest on an unshakable foundation that there is something inherently morally superior to the Palestinian or Israeli position. And any suggestion that these positions can often actually look very similar, and mutually self-reinforcing, when closely examined is the ultimate heresy. Any argument that begins to look like it’s proposing a kind of “moral equivalency” can be guaranteed to draw equally passionate condemnations from partisans on both sides, and not just extremists either.

“Moral equivalency” is rejected by both sides in the same way they both assert “double standards.” At many levels there may not be moral equivalency in any given aspect of the situation, and there are always double standards. But when moral, behavioral, or intellectual equivalency can be found as, on close examination, it very often can, it’s highly revealing about the political trap in which Israelis and Palestinians find themselves caught together.

The howls of outrage are entirely predictable, and they are not just based on mythology but real differences. The parties are not, in fact, the same. Israel is a powerful and well-functioning state with highly-developed bureaucratic systems, laws, and structures. Palestinians are a disempowered and occupied people, fragmented into many parts, and they lack all of those system. Israelis and their friends therefore recoil at being compared at a fundamental level to Palestinians who they see as intolerant, violent, and impossibly recalcitrant. Meanwhile, Palestinians and their friends reject any notion of symmetry with Israel, which they see as racist, colonialist, and impossibly irredentist.

“How can you compare us to those people?” “How can you compare democratic, responsible Israel to the Palestinians with their ‘culture of hate’ and ‘traditions of terrorism?’” “Really,” the other side says? “Here we are, colonized, abused, discriminated against, dispossessed and under constant attack, and you want to compare us to them?” “How can you compare a tolerant democracy to a group of angry and probably anti-Semitic people with the terrorist mentality?” “How can you compare the occupiers with the occupied, the victimizers with the victims?”

In unison, both sides rise to simultaneously reject any notion that there might be a fundamental symmetry between them at a certain register, at least in terms of attitudes and behaviors that reinforce conflict and undermine peace. And they’re all correct, of course. Israel and Palestinians are not the same people and there are major differences between them. This is understood by everybody from the outset.

The point is not to suggest that there aren’t any differences. That would be ridiculous. It’s to deliberately notice the numerous instances of echoing and mutual-reinforcement that seems to pervade and almost define the conflict just below the surface. It’s to challenge the partisans on both sides to recognize that beneath their differences, they have often adopted analogous mentalities that reinforce rather than undermine conflict and make peace far more difficult.

Of course Israelis and Palestinians are not in the same position at any real register. But when two peoples in such different manifest circumstances seem so often to mimic each other at a latent level, when they seem to collaborate in, if nothing else, analogous behaviors and attitudes that perpetually reinforce each other and re-inscribe the basics of the conflict, pointing this out appears to be uniquely provocative to both simultaneously. But there is nothing they need to hear more than to try to pierce the echo chambers that tell them daily that the other side is uniquely wrong and pathological, while they are uniquely right and good.

Palestinians and Israelis must be taught the truth

It is a universal human impulse to shrink from uncomfortable truths. People instinctively only want to hear what reinforces their existing world views and their collective identities, which can be unbearably fragile. Therefore many deliberately prefer myth over reality, ignorance to knowledge, and the warm cocoon of self-satisfaction – especially the supposed moral authority that attaches to victimhood – instead of empathy and understanding.

Cultural leadership requires disrupting such impulses. Political power is more easily gained and maintained by pandering to the lowest common denominator. But no compatriots are more valuable than those who decline to tell their society what they want to hear, and insist instead on telling them what they need to hear.

Mohammed S Dajani Daoudi, a professor at Al-Quds University in occupied East Jerusalem, is the latest groundbreaking figure to champion the virtue of historical truth over the seductive allure of national dogma. As so often befalls those who challenge easy and convenient attitudes, Prof Dajani is facing an angry backlash when he deserves thanks and respect.

His “transgression” was to take 30 Palestinian students to Krakow and Auschwitz-Birkenau to learn about the history of Jews in Europe and especially the Holocaust, while an Israeli professor took a similar number of Jewish students to Dheishe refugee camp in occupied Bethlehem to learn about the Palestinian experience, particularly the Nakba and the dispossession and exile of the refugees.

As word of this project, which took place in March, spread in Palestinian society, Prof Dajani has faced a wave of angry denunciations. He’s been threatened and called a “traitor,” a “normaliser,” and similar epithets, as noted by Matthew Kalman in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. Al-Quds University distanced itself by saying he was acting in his private capacity. He has received some Palestinian support, but not enough.

Prof Dajani, who has a deep history of Palestinian nationalist activism, has long advocated the necessity of teaching about the Holocaust and its “universal truths” in Palestine. His points are unassailable. Historical truth has merit simply as truth. Palestinians deserve to know the truth. Palestinian students, in particular, have a right to be taught the truth.

Moreover, Palestinians have an urgent need to understand the Jewish Israelis who occupy their land and control so much of their daily lives. Palestinians could justifiably claim to understand Israelis all too well at a certain register, through the inescapable lived experience of the occupation.

What’s often missing is a clear sense of the historical experiences that inform Jewish Israeli attitudes about the world, their apparently bewildering sense of constant insecurity when they both seem, and are, overwhelmingly powerful compared to the Palestinians, and their consequent obsession with security – a motif that is effectively deployed in Israel to rationalise many illegal or indefensible practices, typically at the expense of Palestinian human rights.

Palestinians have nothing to fear from any aspect of the historical truth, particularly events in Europe that were a culmination of centuries of European anti-Semitism that do not have any traditional or deep-seated analogue in either Arab culture or Islamic theology. Palestinians cannot be implicated in any meaningful way in Nazi genocide, so objectively they only stand to benefit from its lessons. But it still can be an unwelcome intrusion on otherwise reassuringly simple assumptions about victims and victimisers.

For some, acknowledging that Jews in Europe were the victims of a monstrous crime is experienced as an evasion or an inversion of moral perceptions moulded by the occupation. It requires those who are oppressive to be nonetheless understood as belonging to a people who have been horribly victimised. It can seem an objectionable distraction, truth notwithstanding.

Prof Dajani challenges Palestinians to recognise the complexities of the Jewish experience, while his colleagues who went to refugee camps ask Israelis to open their eyes to the reality of Palestinian suffering. Angry resistance to such projects is not merely the championing of ignorance. It is a wilful withholding of empathy, and insistence on an imagined binary reality neatly divided between essentially “good” and “bad” people.

Refusal of empathy is distressingly widespread and can be disturbingly casual. On April 9, the prominent Jewish-American writer Norman Podhoretz averred with a twisted nonchalance in The Wall Street Journal, “I have no sympathy – none – for the Palestinians,” because they don’t “deserve any”. He describes Palestinians as harbouring “evil intents” and bizarrely insists they will never recognise Israel, even though the Palestine Liberation Organisation did in 1993.

Mr Podhoretz churlishly spurns the complexities of truth, instead cuddling the comforting fiction of a caricature alternate universe in which – most conveniently – anything Palestinians suffer under occupation by his fellow Jews is unobjectionable because these uniquely wicked people “deserve” absolutely no sympathy. His twisted mentality perfectly echoes that of those Palestinians who are angry with Prof Dajani for insisting Palestinians need to learn about the Holocaust in their schools, just as Israelis need to learn about the Nakba.

By stark contrast, in response to the threats, Prof Dajani declared: “I will not remain a bystander even if the victims of the suffering I show empathy for are my occupiers.”

That is real cultural and educational leadership and integrity. It is principled, brave, intelligent and unflinching. It deserves only support, applause and emulation.


Athletes and artists show Gaza still occupied

Recent cases involving athletes and musicians show how much Gaza is still under Israeli occupation

Not free to travel.


I recently participated in a debate in New York City where two noted American pro-Israel advocates, Rabbi Shmuely Boteach and Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, both kept insisting that there is no Israeli occupation in Gaza. Tell that to the 30 runners who applied for Israeli permission recently to participate in the upcoming Second International Bethlehem Marathon in the occupied West Bank.

They were arbitrarily denied permission by Israeli military officials who said the event “does not meet the rules for exceptions for sports events,” because the Marathon “has political overtones.” Presumably this means that it’s a Palestinian event being held under occupation, which implies that Palestinians can do things without Israeli permission in their own land, and that – horror of horrors – they may be preparing for the eventual independence both they and the rest of the world expect and demand.

Under Israel’s own rules, exceptions to the blanket travel ban for Palestinians in Gaza are to be made for, among a small group of others, members of the Palestinian Olympic team and the Palestinian national soccer selection. One of the runners who applied was Nader Masri, who actually ran in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. No dice.

The Israeli rights group, Gisha, appealed on behalf of Masri to Israel’s Supreme Court, which turned them down flat. It’s easy, in their own comfort and freedom in the United States, for people like Boteach and Stephens to delude themselves by insisting there is no occupation in Gaza because the settlements have been removed. But try squaring that with this arbitrary, and cruel, denial of the right of a qualified and apolitical Palestinian runner from Gaza to participate in a Palestinian marathon in the occupied West Bank. Or the 29 others who simply wanted to run.

There’s no question under international law that Gaza remains occupied by Israel. But supporters of Israel wave away international law and UN Security Council resolutions. They cite an absence of Israeli forces in the heart of Gaza or settlers on its periphery. What they don’t recognize is that Israel nonetheless controls the ability of ordinary people in Gaza like these runners to deal with their brethren in the West Bank, and that its policy default is to deny this.

If they had to apply for permission to travel within their own country to a foreign army of occupation, only to be turned down on spurious pretexts that reflect mass punishment rather than anything to do with security, they’d know they are very much still living under foreign military occupation.

It’s true that there is one potential crossing for people to get out of Gaza that is controlled by Egypt, but Hamas’ reckless policies in and toward the Sinai Peninsula have made the Egyptian government, whether under the Muslim Brotherhood or the new interim authorities, very reluctant to keep that border open on a regular basis.

But all the main channels of ingress and egress out of Gaza, including the seaport, any air route and the only real commercial crossing with industrial equipment, are all controlled, and closed, by Israel. And even if Masri and the others had been able to cross into Egypt, to get into the occupied West Bank and to the marathon in Bethlehem, they would have still needed to enter Palestine with the permission of Israeli soldiers, which they would be denied.

In another example of what Palestinian residents of Gaza face in trying to access the other part of their country and their brethren in the West Bank, 39 Gaza-based musicians asked for permission to travel to the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem to participate in a festival of music and culture. You guessed it: request denied.

Israeli military authorities have not explained the logic of refusing to allow musicians to travel from Gaza to the rest of Palestine for an artistic program, and they say that a final decision hasn’t been made, but such denials are rarely reversed. All these restrictions are almost certainly part of a policy of collective punishment directed at the Palestinians of Gaza by Israel because they also have to suffer under the misrule of Hamas.

These policies are not only inhumane, arbitrary, cruel, and simply bewildering, they are also entirely self-defeating for Israel. They don’t enhance Israeli security, they fuel Palestinian resentment. They don’t undermine Hamas’ rule in Gaza, they make the Palestinians of Gaza more dependent on Hamas and less independent, and more cut off from the outside world. Like most blockades, they accrue directly to the benefit of the governing entities, in this case Hamas, at the expense of ordinary people.

And these stories are not the exception but the norm, even when the rules technically shouldn’t apply. Gaza is still under Israeli occupation, because if you live there, you can’t play sports or music, except in your own neighborhood, without the permission of the Israeli army. You are in prison and the guards at the gates are Israeli soldiers.

Lebanon is unfit and unable to cope with its refugee crisis

Most of the concern about “spillover” from the Syrian conflict in Lebanon has tended to focus on political destabilisation, sectarian conflict in the north and the impact of both violence and its own political viability from Hizbollah’s reckless intervention on behalf of the Damascus dictatorship. But this week Lebanon reached a sobering milestone: when a 19-year-old known only as Yahya signed up for UN aid as a Syrian refugee, the official number in Lebanon hit the one million mark.

This is the highest per capita concentration of refugees recorded anywhere in the world in recent history. Simply put, the population of Lebanon has increased by at least 25 per cent, and probably more, in the past three years.

Lebanon is a country of only about four million citizens, with a long-standing refugee population of more than 300,000 Palestinians as well. Political relations between those four million Lebanese have always been balanced in an uneasy accommodation between sectarian and ideological forces that often agree on very little. Indeed, one of the few things most Lebanese factions really seem to agree on is the systematic and shameful exclusion from most elements of public life of the Palestinian refugees, who are officially seen as temporary guests but are understood as a semi-permanent presence that nonetheless cannot be incorporated into the country’s socio-political mix.

When the first waves of Syrian refugees began to hit Lebanon, alarm was not immediate. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have been going back and forth between Syria and Lebanon for decades. It was assumed that these Syrian refugees, too, were genuinely temporary guests, and that, whatever the outcome, the war would end fairly quickly and they would return home.

It’s only in the past year or so that the Lebanese have begun to realise that the reality is entirely different. The war in Syria shows no sign of ending, and may well drag on longer than Lebanon’s own 15-year civil conflict. So it’s now very difficult to avoid concluding that these refugees, plus many other Syrians in Lebanon who have not registered with anyone but who also aren’t going anywhere, any time soon, have drastically altered the demographic make-up of the country for the foreseeable future, if not permanently.

Several neighbouring states have major refugee populations from the Syrian conflict, including Jordan. But Lebanon is particularly ill-equipped to deal with this scale of sudden influx, both socially and politically.

Many Syrians in Lebanon cannot afford to pay the $250 (Dh918) per head required for every year of lawful residency, and therefore many are becoming “illegal.” Without this residency, refugees are faced with the constant threat of arrest, and are ineligible for health and other social services, or legal processes such as marriage and divorce or the registering of newborns. So they live in a shadow world, hiding beneath the surface of the law.

Their desperation was recently highlighted when, on April 2, Mariam Al Khawli immolated herself in protest at the cut in aid she was receiving from refugee agencies. It should be a wake-up call to all parties, but there’s little sign of any action. Many refugees continue to live on approximately $1 a day, and more than half are estimated to be children. The refugees are also facing a rising tide of anger and discrimination, with numerous reports of intolerance and even “racism” against them growing in some segments of the Lebanese population.

Lebanon’s already beleaguered and fractious governance system is struggling to provide everyone with social services, especially education. Many Lebanese, including government officials, openly and bitterly complain that in numerous public schools Syrian students now outnumber Lebanese ones. Water and electricity services, which were already barely adequate, are now on the verge of collapse. The World Bank has estimated the financial costs of the refugee crisis to Lebanon at $2.5 billion in 2013, and that number can only grow this year and beyond.

Over time, the question of the political status and impact of the Syrian refugees, who appear to be mostly Sunnis, on Lebanon’s delicate social and sectarian equilibrium may be even more damaging. There is no doubt most of the Syrians want to go home, and they would if they could. But they can’t, and there’s no indication that they will in the foreseeable future either. If anything, there will be more refugees coming into Lebanon rather than returning to Syria.

This sudden and unexpected population explosion has brought new competition over jobs and services, new social tensions and, perhaps even more worryingly, a new political demographic, for which Lebanon is entirely unprepared.

So in addition to the spillover of fighting in the north, and the war that is trailing Hizbollah back into Lebanon following their major intervention in Syria, Lebanon now has a vast new population that is not accounted for by its social and political systems. This reality is untenable. Such a huge number can neither be fully incorporated nor excluded by Lebanon.

Neither the international community nor Lebanon have any credible answer or plausible plan on what is to be done about the calamity that has befallen each individual refugee and the entire country of Lebanon, all of which are reeling after an unparalleled human tsunami that’s far from over.

Surrounded by fanatics

Israeli and Palestinian rhetorical extremism is old hat, but it seems to be nearing a new crescendo

Words matter. Sensible people know that. But fanatics know it too.

Those who strive for peace between Israel and the Palestinians are keenly aware of their encirclement by radical propaganda. This has been true for decades, but the intensity of mania on the fringes isn’t abating: if anything, it’s only getting worse.

The phenomenon affects all who dare to advocate for Middle East peace, and therefore come under constant attack from a bizarre menagerie of extremists. What I had already perceived to be a generalized intensification of strident polemics was recently brought home to me directly as I found myself under unusually harsh attacks simultaneously from a twin set of zealots.

Last week, in an article on the right-wing pro-Israel website, Ben Cohen described me as ”a faux moderate“ because of articles I’ve written about Israel’s “Jewish state” demand. In a subsequent Twitter exchange, I pointed out that this can only mean that he’s calling me an extremist, an obvious truth he would neither admit nor deny.

Cohen’s imagination has constructed a binary world in which there are only two kinds of people: Zionists and extremists. It’s not enough that I seek peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and do not oppose Israel although I categorically oppose the occupation. Cohen can see that I obviously do not adhere to the ideological tenets or narrative of Zionism. And, for him, by definition that makes me an extremist.

At roughly the same time, the anonymous abusive and spamming Twitter feed that calls itself “@Ikhras” – though one can certainly make an educated guess as to at least some of the people involved – decided I was not simply a “right-wing Zionist,” which already they call me almost daily: they declared I was actually ”the most right-wing of all these Zionists,” in reference to a debate I am having later today with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the decidedly right-wing Wall Street Journal Foreign Affairs columnist Bret Stephens, and noted liberal commentator Peter Beinart.

It’s laughable. For the likes of Cohen, because I’m not a Zionist but rather an Arab who wants peace with Israel, I’m a “faux moderate.” For @Ikhras, whoever is cowering behind its craven anonymity, because I want peace with Israel, even though I’m not a Zionist, I’m more “Zionist” than three self-avowed Jewish Zionists, and more “right-wing” than one of America’s most prominent conservative columnists.

Indeed, over the past few months I’ve been inexplicably described by the far left as an “Arab neoconservative,” simply as an empty pejorative since I can’t think of any policy view I hold, on either domestic or international affairs, that can honestly be described as right-of-center.

For the extremes, though, there is no center ground. There is no way to agree to disagree, or even partly agree. Their narratives are hewn in marble; any disagreement can only be a manifestation of willful wickedness, a vile betrayal of self-evident Truth and Justice. If you don’t agree with them completely on everything, you’re not only ipso facto a bad person: more importantly – because there is no room for genuine moderation – you must also be a fanatic on the other side. Thus it was that in the past few days on Twitter I could be simultaneously described as both “a faux moderate” and ”the most right-wing Zionist.”

I recently received copies of two new books that illustrate exactly the same phenomenon. Coming from what appear to be radically different positions, they actually agree on a vast number of issues and echo each other’s mentalities perfectly. Both derisively and angrily dismiss the international consensus in favor of a two-state solution and advocate a one-state “solution.” And they share far more in common than just that.

Caroline Glick’s The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East and Ali Abunimah’s The Battle for Justice in Palestine clearly stake out the same position, but in mirror image to each other. Both insist that only Jews or Palestinians, respectively, have national rights and rights to self-determination in the land between the river and the sea. Both insist that a single state is achievable and necessary, and will be a happy and peaceful polity as long as it is under the majority rule of their own community. Sure, the other side may have to endure some sacrifices. But ultimately they might well, or at least should, be happy with the outcome. And if not, tough: Justice demands it.

There is no room in either book for the ideas that compromise is essential, that peace is an important value, that the other side has any respectable case or legitimacy whatsoever, or that their own side has any difficult choices to make other than simply asserting the indisputable moral authority of its own maximalist cause. For all of their manifest differences, the two books are indistinguishable at the latent level. They are, in effect, exactly the same book.

You’d think this might make Glick and Abunimah, or at least some of their fans, think twice. But righteous zeal may prevent many of them from seeing past the tissue-thin, surface level, polar opposite appearances and recognizing the underlying interchangeability and complementarity of their arguments and mentalities, which aren’t just barely concealed but are actually strikingly obvious.

Anyone who follows the news will know certain high-ranking Israeli and Palestinian officials have recently been making statements that strongly encourage maximalism and discourage compromise and moderation. This isn’t new, of course, but it appears to be approaching a piercingly shrill crescendo as US Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative comes to a head.

Highly counterproductive statements by senior officials are more damaging than books by demagogues, which in turn are more harmful than blog postings and tweets by fanatics. But all of this angry bombast should remind those of us who are committed to a future of peace and dignity for both Palestinians and Israelis, based on an end to the occupation, that we are surrounded on all sides by cynical manipulators and wild-eyed zealots.

To overcome this widespread rhetorical offensive against ending both the occupation and the conflict, we will all have to work together more closely than ever to marginalize extremism and empower moderation, while remaining cognizant of our differences and not pretending they don’t exist. Our words – the words of peace – must prevail.

‘Tough love’ can help keep Israel and the Palestinians honest

Israel is used to indulgence from the West, but it’s beginning to experience unexpected and uncomfortable forms of pressure. The Palestinians are used to being pressured by the West regarding Israel, but not on internal governance. It’s high time for a period of “tough love” for both, and this seems to have begun. It’s in everyone’s interests.

Israel has been trying to get into the US visa waiver programme, meaning that citizens of Israel wouldn’t need a visa to enter the United States. But US law requires that American citizens must receive the same treatment. And it’s been clear for decades that Israel discriminates against Palestinian and other Arab Americans.

This was acknowledged by the state department last week when spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted: “The department of homeland security and state remain concerned with the unequal treatment that Palestinian Americans and other Americans of Middle Eastern origin experience at Israel’s border and checkpoints, and reciprocity is the most basic condition of the visa waiver programme.”

In other words, the Obama administration is not going to make Israel an exception in allowing it to discriminate against American citizens on the basis of their ethnicity, religion or national origin.

There has been a recent spike in the number of rejections of Israeli visa applications. In the House of Representatives, a bill that effectively exempted Israel from the reciprocity clause languished. Instead, in January, the committee on foreign affairs adopted the “US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013”, which requires Israel to “satisfy” and “continue to satisfy” section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act for inclusion in the visa waiver programme. This requires “reciprocal privileges” for Americans.

The position of the state department and department of homeland security on Israel’s well-documented discrimination against Palestinians and other Arab Americans means it clearly wouldn’t qualify under the House bill.

Legislation pending in the Senate incoherently contains language that would both require Israel to comply with Section 217 and simultaneously be allotted a special dispensation to discriminate against Americans. Given the position of the House and the administration, it now seems almost certain that Israel’s efforts to get the United States to wink at its undeniable record and practice of discriminating against Palestinian and Arab Americans just isn’t going to happen.

The apparent collapse of efforts to include Israel in the US visa waiver programme is only the latest instance of what might be termed “tough love” coming from its western allies. This particular instance is pursuant to American anti-discrimination legislation and the rights of all Americans.

But many recent comments from both Barack Obama and John Kerry, the US secretary of state, have been much more blunt about the dangers facing Israel in the event of a collapse of peace talks with the Palestinians, and the limitations of what the US might be able, or implicitly interested, in doing to prevent the “international fallout.”

Among the key examples of this is an even “tougher” form of “love” coming from the European Union and individual European states, who are beginning to put substance into their long-standing policies objecting to Israel’s illegal settlement project.

They have already insisted that multilateral and public sector projects don’t include funding or support for any settlements. And Germany, Israel’s closest friend in Europe, is pushing to extend those restrictions to bilateral and private sector projects in any territories “not under Israel’s jurisdiction before June 1967”. If that happens, most other European countries will quickly follow suit.

For their own purposes, both the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) that seeks to target Israel as a whole rather than the occupation and settlements, and the Israeli government are trying to conflate the emerging European policy with BDS.

Benjamin Netanyahu spent a good deal of his recent speech at the American pro-Israel organisation AIPAC doing just that, with the overt purpose of making Europe’s actions seem anti-Israel, if not anti-Semitic. But in truth, the two are totally unconnected and pursuant to different goals.

Whatever BDS activists may imagine, European statesmen don’t read their blogs or Twitter feeds, and are not inspired by their rhetoric. The Europeans are pursuing the logic of their own policies and – since the United States does not appear to object to any of this – also potentially giving the Americans at least additional rhetorical leverage with Israel.

Europe’s policies aren’t anti- Israel. They are pro-peace and pursuant to international law. This is friends doing what friends should do: helping each other see what’s in their best interests and refusing to cooperate with self-destructive behaviour.

The Palestinians, too, require some “tough love.” The “love” they need is much greater aid and technical support from the West and the Arab world.

The “tough” part would be for the donor community to demand, as they can and should, that Palestinian advancements in recent years in good governance, transparency and security professionalism – many of which have frayed over the past 12 months – be at least restored to their former standards. The Palestinian people clearly want effective and accountable governance, and the donor community has unique leverage to help them ensure they get it.

The Palestinians and Israelis need their friends to help them achieve peace. But, like everyone, they also need their friends to help keep them honest. That’s what real friends do.

Dramatizing the negotiations

The new play Camp David illustrates the necessity and difficulty of peace, and how little has changed in 35 years

Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat (L), Israeli Premier Menachem Begin (R) and US President Jimmy Carter (C) shake hands after a press conference in the East Room of the White House, on September 18, 1978


Fictionalizing or dramatizing history is a dangerous business. It usually comes off badly. Indeed, the pitfalls of historical drama and fiction are the primary subject of one of the most underrated plays of all time, John Ford’s 1634 masterpiece Perkin Warbeck (appropriately subtitled, A Strange Truth). There are obvious exceptions, beginning with Shakespeare and Marlowe, and leading all the way up to the series of 20th century novels by Gore Vidal that constructed a brilliantly contrarian revision of received American history. So, sometimes, it can be done right.

On Sunday night, I had the pleasure of seeing a preview performance of an important new play from one of the best living American journalists and writers, Camp David by Lawrence Wright. The ingeniously-staged production tells the story of the 13-day-long negotiations between Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, and Menachem Begin that resulted in the basis for the enduring Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Rosalynn Carter is added as a fourth, crucially leavening character who intervenes with gentleness and encouragement at key moments.

But within minutes it’s clear that Wright isn’t merely harkening back to those historic days 35 years ago: he’s unmistakably talking about present concerns, and anyone in the audience who reads the newspaper will see echoes of the disputes between President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

These issues are front-loaded for two reasons. First, the Egyptians really did arrive at Camp David with a proposal that focused heavily on the Palestinian issue, particularly the question of settlements and Jerusalem. The Israelis wouldn’t hear of it, and bridging this divide and getting Sadat to sign what amounted to a “separate peace” was Carter’s essential challenge. So dramatizing the negotiations – with a good deal of artistic license but also a laudable fidelity to the historical record within the context of a 90-minute play – puts these still-burning issues front and center.

Wright plainly has his eye on today’s headlines as much as the historical events depicted. Sadat’s protestations that Middle East peace is meaningless without Israel conforming to UN Security Council Resolution 242 and withdrawing from territories occupied in the 1967 war, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, remains not only a relevant but the relevant question mark over whether there is to be an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Early on the Sadat character, in many ways echoing Abbas, insists he is “flexible on everything… except land and sovereignty.” Big exceptions, and naturally the line draws an appropriate laugh from the audience. In the end, of course, the Egyptians put their own interests first, and, since they had no other Arab support, they weren’t actually beholden to represent other parties that strenuously objected to their negotiations in the first place. But they tried and got nowhere, except in vague annexes that are not actually part of the Egyptian-Israeli treaty itself.

Those annexes, while of historical significance, proved irrelevant, and the only thing that mattered was that Egypt and Israel did go on to sign a full-fledged treaty which survived despite the tumultuous changes of the past several years. It’s a testament to the lasting power of Arab-Israeli agreements – especially when compared to the disastrous consequences of unilateral Israeli actions such as those in Gaza and Lebanon, which left no one on the other side with any incentive to make the agreements work.

Netanyahu is the ideological heir to Begin much more than Abbas is to Sadat. And in Wright’s play, Begin’s profound skepticism about Arab intentions and indeed the very possibility of a peace agreement – even with Egypt alone – conjure unmistakable echoes of Netanyahu and other leading Israelis’ circumspection about an agreement with the Palestinians.

In Wright’s play as in life, Begin was categorically opposed to the concept of a Palestinian state or the idea of a compromise on Jerusalem. Netanyahu, at least rhetorically, ultimately came to endorse the notion of a two-state agreement, but he continues to rule out compromise on Jerusalem. And in Camp David, Carter and Begin have numerous arguments about the need for a settlement freeze during negotiations – dismissed by Begin – that strongly recall at least the thrust of the confrontation between Obama and Netanyahu over the same issue. “That man’s a psycho,” Wright’s Carter says of the intransigent Begin. One can easily imagine Obama having said the same thing about Netanyahu during his first term.

Begin is also single-mindedly obsessed with Israeli security and the Jewish people’s experiences with the threat of extermination, most notably the Holocaust. Like Begin, Netanyahu’s father, Benzion, was a follower of the extremist “revisionist” Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and the present Israeli Prime Minister follows in that tradition. In the play, Begin cites security for virtually every objection he makes to compromise. No one can miss the allusion.

Begin, as Camp David reflects, was among the most prominent early champions of the idea that history, religion, and other grounds justify Israeli irredentism in the occupied Palestinian territories. In the play, he repeatedly denies that there is any occupation and finds the idea of territorial compromise in “Judea and Samaria” unthinkable. Israeli thinking, at least among political elites, appears to have come full circle on this issue. Having become amenable to the idea, to some extent, there is presently a great retrenchment, and the emergence of a strong annexationist trend in Israeli politics reflects Begin’s attitudes if not his actual policies. “We speak in terms of autonomy, but not statehood,” the Begin character says in Camp David. Indeed, that is how many right-wing Israelis are once again starting to think about the Palestinian future. Moreover, and more to the point, the distinction between autonomy and independence precisely defines the Palestinian reality that has been operational since the 1993 Oslo Accords, with no end in sight.

Camp David is a significant dramatic achievement, and unlike several other recent failed productions about contemporary politics (Frost/Nixon being among the more notable a rare exceptions), this engaging and adroitly revealing play is likely to prove theatrically successful. This is only the first production of it, and there are bound to be more. The performances of all four major actors, including Egyptian film star Khaled Nabawy as Sadat, were, even in this preview, almost flawless. And while the play is still being revised and enriched before it officially opens on April 2, what has already been accomplished should be sufficient to achieve a lasting impact, at least on the stage.

One of the more subtle, but unmistakable, subtexts in Camp David is not simply that Sadat knows that he is gambling with his life. Of course he knew. What is more intriguing is the small passage in which he explains to Rosalynn Carter the meaning, and perhaps purpose, of the 1973 war. Sadat speaks in terms of a recuperation in 1973 of Arab “dignity” following the debacle of 1967 that made peace possible for Egyptians. But there is a clear insinuation that Sadat went into the war knowing he could make a point but could not win, because, as the character explains in the play, “I cannot fight the United States.” Many of us suspect that he entered that war hoping for victory, but strongly anticipating that a clear Arab victory would ultimately prove unattainable, and that he was already looking beyond the conflict toward negotiation.

The Sadat character explains the relatively strong performance by the Egyptian military as essential to the negotiations because it helped the nation recover emotionally from the humiliation and shock of 1967. But it also crucially sent a clear warning to the Israelis, while, even more importantly perhaps, proved to the Arabs that a military reversal of 1967 was not possible. It would either stand or have to be negotiated.

Camp David is very frank that the negotiations almost fell apart and were largely saved by Carter’s emotional last-minute appeal to Begin regarding the future of his grandchildren. Knowing that the agreement cost Sadat his life, and that all the issues regarding the central question of Palestine remain unresolved, the play’s “happy ending” is, like the reality of the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement at best bittersweet. They are only pleasing in stark contrast to the only real alternative.

In Wright’s words, “The message of Camp David – both the play and the real event – is that peace is possible. It’s just very hard, and it requires making bitter compromises and acknowledging the justice of your enemy’s narrative.” Wisdom, good theater, and the benefit of hindsight aren’t going to move any of the principals in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But anyone who attends Camp David will leave with a much stronger sense of what is at stake, how long these arguments have been going on more or less unchanged, and how difficult it really will be to resolve them. And yet, that is not just possible: it is necessary.

GCC impasse is about the role Egypt plays in region

The unprecedented withdrawal of their ambassadors to Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – as well as Egypt – probably constitutes the most serious rift in the Gulf Cooperation Council since its foundation. But its deepest causes and implications reach far beyond the immediate Gulf region.

There is a complex regional and international context at work, and a wide range of grievances, mainly about Doha’s regional sponsorship of Muslim Brotherhood parties. But if there is a paramount cause for both the timing and scale of this rebuke, its epicentre almost certainly lies in Cairo.

Ever since the downfall of former president Hosni Mubarak, Riyadh and Doha have been at odds over Egypt’s political future. But the stakes are now much higher, particularly given the thaw between Washington and Tehran, and the concomitant anxieties about Gulf security this has provoked.

Much of the Arab world welcomed the military intervention in Egypt last year in response to overwhelming popular pressure to remove the out-of-control Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi.

Few were more enthusiastic than Saudi Arabia and its allies.

But this dispute is no longer just a matter of competing ideologies or rivalries between monarchies – let alone the foolish narratives about “counter-revolution” that have tended to dominate the conversation in Washington among credulous academics. Instead, it is about Egypt’s role in the unfolding new Middle Eastern strategic landscape.

With US president Barack Obama making suggestive comments about Iran being “strategic”, “not impulsive” and responsive to “incentives” – and continued American talk about a “pivot to Asia” and, implicitly, away from the Middle East – alarm about where US policy may be headed and what to do about it has been growing. Riyadh has not been shy about both bluntly expressing its concerns in public and, at the same time, making calculated overtures aimed at communicating to the United States that it remains an indispensable partner.

As the Gulf states look across the waters at a looming, powerful and would-be hegemonic Iran – and the prospect, whether remote or imminent, of a fundamentally different American approach – this has prompted an urgent drive to shore up their strategic position. It’s not just the possibility of a new, or simply reduced, American role in the region. Both Iraq and Syria are in chaos, and their central governments are aligned with Tehran. Added up, all this explains the almost unprecedented feeling of vulnerability in some key Gulf states.

This is precisely where the new Egypt becomes a crucial player in the Arab world, and even for Gulf security. Egypt is by far the largest Arab state, with a probable population of more than 90 million people. It has considerable military resources, although its present ability to project armed force may be limited. But its potential hard-power might – and its existing cultural and political influence in much of the Arab world – cannot be underestimated.

Simply put, the GCC states that withdrew their ambassadors from Doha have every reason to believe they need a strong, stable and committed Egypt in order to acquire new strategic depth that is otherwise unavailable.

This probably best explains the timing and seriousness of the message of unmistakable anger over Qatar’s ongoing support for what is perceived by those GCC states, and Cairo, as support for subversion in Egypt and beyond. Such subversion threatens to sabotage the creation of a Gulf-Egypt axis that could provide the Arab world with the beginnings of a substantial new strategic posture vis-à-vis Iran and, potentially, a changed American role in the region.

Yet all these sources of anxiety should be tempered with some sobering perspective.

First, the GCC states will probably again patch up their differences, as they always have in the past. Qatar will, over time, undoubtedly have to significantly amend its policies. But that’s probably a matter for the future, the point having now been unmistakably made. In all likelihood, they will eventually do so voluntarily.

Second, the Gulf-Egypt axis is likely to develop apace and, unless circumstances change fairly radically, it will provide the fundamental basis for a regional Arab coalition that possesses much greater strategic heft and depth.

Third, hand-wringing over any radically altered American role is premature. The “pivot to Asia” remains theoretical. In reality, the US strategic presence in the Gulf region is not drawing down. If anything, it is building up, including $72 billion (Dh265bn) in arms sales to, and the maintenance of major military bases in, Arab Gulf states. Fiscal-year plans for 2015 and the latest US quarterly defence reviews do not downgrade the American presence in the Gulf region at all, making it at least as significant a priority as Asia.

None of that guarantees there won’t be some version of a feared historic change in American calculations. But Iran is still treated in every US strategic guidance document and review as the primary threat to American interests in the area, and changing that will require a dramatic reconceptualisation at every level.

Nonetheless, it’s understandable that, under present circumstances, Gulf states would look for greater strategic depth. Egypt may be their only real option, and Cairo seems equally enthusiastic about the partnership. Therefore, Doha has been duly put on notice that it’s not going to be allowed to get in the way of achieving such a new Arab axis.

كم مرة على الفلسطينيين أن يعترفوا بإسرائيل؟

  هناك إشكالات عديدة تتعلق بطلب إسرائيل الجديد الذي يلح على الفلسطينيين أن يعترفوا بها رسميا ك”دولة يهودية”، ومع أن جل الكتاب و المحللين السياسيين _ بما فيهم كاتب هذه السطور_ قد تمكنوا من دراسة هذه المشاكل بدقة ودحضها، إلا أن أهم هذه الإشكالات لم ينل حتى الآن ما يكفي من البحث والاهتمام؛ نعني بذلك أن الهدف من هذا المطلب الجديد والتأثير المرجو من ورائه هو إلغاء وتجاهل أكبر تنازل قدمه الفلسطينيون؛ ألا وهو اعترافهم بدولة إسرائيل عام 1993.

يوجد إجماع دولي على مبدأ “حل الدولتين” لا يكاد يشذ عنه أحد؛ بما في ذلك رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي بنيامين نتنياهو ووزير خارجيته أفيكدور ليبرمان اللذان يصرحان الآن بتأييد هذا الطرح، بعد ما عارضاه لفترة طويلة.

غير أن هناك خللا خطيرا ما يزال يصاحب جهود السلام التي تم بذلها على مدى ربع قرن من الزمن من أجل إنهاء الصراع والتوصل إلى حل الدولتين. فأحد الأطراف، وهو الجانب الفلسطيني ممثلا في منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية، اعترف بإسرائيل بشكل واضح وصريح؛ وبغض النظر عن باقي التفاصيل فقد ظل الجانب الفلسطيني ملتزما بالشرط الضروري لمبدأ حل الدولتين، أي الاعتراف بإسرائيل.

من جانبه، لم يعترف الطرف الإسرائيلي أبدا بالدولة الفلسطينية، أو حتى _ بشكل رسمي أو مكتوب أو قانوني_ بحق الفلسطينيين في دولة مستقلة.

ينطوي طلب “يهودية الدولة” على عدد كبير من الإشكالات، وخصوصا الصيغة التي قدمها نتنياهو على شكل “الدولة القومية للشعب اليهودي”.

هذه الصيغة بالذات مليئة بالإشكالات وتوحي بأن هناك إثنية دينية غير محددة موجودة في أنحاء العالم، تمتلك بأكملها دعوى عابرة للتاريخ بامتلاك هذه الأرض، وليس فقط الأغلبية اليهودية الموجودة حاليا في إسرائيل.

هذه الصيغة أيضا تستدعي إلى الذهن صهيونية ما قبل الدولة، حيث يتم تعريف إسرائيل وكأن الدولة لم تنشأ بعد، وكأن أجيالا من اليهود و العرب الإسرائيليين لم يولدوا على هذه الأرض.

وتدفع هذه الصياغة كذلك للتساؤل عن وضعية المواطنين الإسرائيليين من أصل فلسطيني الذين يعانون مسبقا من تمييز واضح يطال مختلف القطاعات، لمجرد أنهم ليسوا يهودا، وهذا أحد الأسباب التي جعلت منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية تعتبر هذا المطلب مشْكِلا، ذلك أنهم لا يريدون أن يوافقوا ضمنيا على تأييد القيود التي يعاني منها الفلسطينيون الموجودون في إسرائيل، سواء في الوقت الراهن أو في المستقبل.

من ناحية أخرى، لا يبدو أن إسرائيل نفسها قادرة على تحديد معنى “الدولة اليهودية”، وقد باءت بالفشل كل محاولات الكنيست الأخير لتمرير قانون يزيل الغموض عن هذا المصطلح.

صحيح أنه يوجد إجماع من طرف اليهود الإسرائيليين على أن إسرائيل هي بمعني ما دولة “يهودية”، لكن لا يوجد بينهم أي إجماع مهما كانت درجته حول ما يترتب على ذلك، والواقع أن إسرائيل تطالب الفلسطينيين بالموافقة على شيء لا تستطيع هي نفسها تحديد ماهيته بشكل دقيق.

لقد تم تقديم طلب “يهودية الدولة” أول مرة عام 2007 في مؤتمر أنابوليس، ولم يرد أي ذكر لهذا المصطلح خلال المفاوضات الإسرائيلية السابقة مع الفلسطينيين، ناهيك عن مفاوضاتهم مع المصريين أو الأردنيين. وقوبل هذا الطلب بالرفض من  قبل الوفدين الفلسطيني والأمريكي، باعتباره محاولة للالتفات على الوضع النهائي لقضية اللاجئين الفلسطينيين.

وبالرغم من أن هذا الطلب تم رفضه حينها، إلا أنه سرعان ما برز مجددا مع إعادة انتخاب نتنياهو عام 2009، حيث جعل هذا الأخير عبارة “يهودية الدولة” المحور الأساسي في علاقاته مع الفلسطينيين.

والآن لم تعد هذه القضية بالنسبة لنتنياهو أمرا مهما فحسب، بل إنه أحيانا يعتبرها هي القضية الأساسية الوحيدة (مع أنه يصعب شرح كيف ظلت هذه “القضية الأساسية الوحيدة” غائبة عن الإسرائيليين في علاقاتهم مع الفلسطينيين حتى عام 2007″.)

ويميل عدد كبير من الكتاب والمحللين السياسيين إلى أن هناك سببين رئيسين وراء تركيز نتنياهو على هذه القضية: أولهما، أنه يريد أن يترك بصمته الخاصة على عملية تم تحديدها قبل مجيئه إلى السلطة، وثانيهما هو الاستمرار في محاولة نزع فتيل ملف اللاجئين الفلسطينيين، خصوصا كبديل للتنازلات الإسرائيلية حول القدس.

هناك تفسير ثالث، وهو الأكثر تداولا، فحواه أن الهدف من هذا الإلحاح العنيد على هذا الطلب يعكس محاولة لتقويض محادثات السلام، حيث يسعى الجانب الإسرائيلي إلى إيجاد مطلب لا يمكن للفلسطينيين تلبيته في نفس الوقت الذي يتفق معظم الإسرائيليين على أهميته.

وهنا يبدو مطلب “يهودية الدولة” فرصة لا تقدر بثمن. ومن الوارد جدا أن هذا الأمر جزء _أو كان على الأقل في مرحلة ما جزءا_ من حسابات المفاوضين الإسرائيليين.

لقد انتصر نتنياهو على السواد الأعظم من الإسرائيليين وأصدقائهم حول هذه القضية الجديدة من قضايا الوضع النهائي، من خلال اللعب على مخاوف الإسرائيليين الذين يخشون من أن أي اتفاق قد لا ينهي الصراع بشكل فعلي، على الرغم من أن الجميع متفقون على أن معاهدة السلام سوف تنهي الصراع وتضح حدا لكل المطالبات.

على أن ما لا يدركه الكثيرون هو أن أخطر ما يترتب على مطلب “يهودية الدولة” هو تجاهله  للاعتراف الفلسطيني بإسرائيل عام 1993 وعكسه للقضية؛ فلم يدع ذلك الاتفاق مجالا للحديث عن رفض الفلسطينيين الاعتراف بإسرائيل وكأنه هو أصل المشكلة، بل أصبح كل من يتبنى هذا الرأي محل تندر.

أما اليوم، وبقدرة قادر، تغير الوضع، وأصبح بالإمكان الحديث مرة أخرى عن الاعتراف الفلسطيني بإسرائيل باعتباره هو لب المشكلة، لأن ما حدث عام 1993 لم يكن اعترافا بإسرائيل كـ”دولة يهودية”.

والغريب أن الجانب الإسرائيلي  لم يطلب من الفلسطينيين أن يعترفوا بإسرائيل كدولة يهودية إلا مع حلول العام 2007، لا أحد يهتم بذلك الآن.

كما لا يهتم أحد بعديد العقبات والمشاكل الجمة التي تصاحب هذا المطلب، فضلا عن الغموض الذي يحيط بالمصطلح نفسه.

بل إن هناك لازمة على شكل تعويذة أصبحت تتكرر في خطابات معظم الدوائر المناصرة لإسرائيل حول العالم وهي أن اعتراف منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية بإسرائيل عام 1993 لم يعد مهما في الوقت الراهن، وأن الشكوك ستظل تحيط بنوايا الفلسطينيين تجاه إنهاء الصراع و تحقيق السلام ما لم يعترفوا بإسرائيل كـ”دولة يهودية.”

وبالتالي فإن المطلب الجديد سيحل هذه المعادلة المعقدة: هناك طرف حافظ على تعهداته الجوهرية في إطار حل الدولتين واعترف بدولة مستقلة للطرف الآخر، بينما لم يحافظ هذا الطرف الآخر على تعهداته.

فالزج بهذا المطلب إذن من شأنه أن يعيد عقارب الساعة السياسية والنفسية والدبلوماسية إلى ما قبل 1993، حيث يُطب من الفلسطينيين مجددا أن يثبتوا استعدادهم للعيش بسلام مع إسرائيل، من خلال ترديد هذه التعويذة السحرية (مطلب الدولة اليهودية)

كما أنه يتجاهل أن اعتراف الفلسطينيين بإسرائيل عام 1993 يعتبر، من وجهة نظر فلسطينية وعربية، أعظم تنازل يمكن أن يقدم؛ إذ تخلى الفلسطينيون بموجب ذلك الاتفاق عن مطالبتهم  بما يزيد على ثلثي ما كان  لعهد قريب يعتبر وطنا للفلسطينيين (بمعنى أنهم كانوا يشكلون أغلبية عريضة هناك حتى 1948) وسيتحول مسار المفاوضات بعد اتفاق 1993 إلى التباحث حول الأراضي المحتلة بعد 1967 فقط ويغيب عن طاولة التفاوض أي حديث عن الأراضي التي أصبحت تعرف بإسرائيل بعد 1948.

ومع ضخامة هذا التنازل وخطورته، فإن هذه الاتفاقية شبه المستحيلة لم تعترف بها إسرائيل بشكل كامل، ولا حتى المجتمع الدولي . ثم جاء طلب “يهودية الدولة” ليزيد الطين بلة و يتم تجاهل هذا الاعتراف و اعتباره لم يعد مهما.

وللإنصاف، لو كان عامة الإسرائيليين ومن يناصرونهم أكثر اقتناعا بتصريحات الفلسطينيين وسلوكهم بأن هذا هو الواقع لما تأثروا كثيرا بتركيز نتنياهو بشكل هوسي على هذا الطلب الجديد الذي يخاطب بدهاء حساسيات متجذرة في وجدان الإسرائيليين.

ولكن يبدو أن هذا المطلب يعادل الموازين بشكل سحري، من خلال إنكار _ وإن على المستويين النفسي والثقافي_ الاعتراف الفلسطيني بإسرائيل.

والحق أن أحد الأطراف، فلسطين، قد اعترف بدولة مستقلة للطرف الآخر، إسرائيل، في الوقت الذي لم تعترف فيه إسرائيل بفلسطين ولا حتى بحق الفلسطينيين في دولة مستقلة.

ويبدو أنه ما زال على الفلسطينيين القيام بجملة من الأمور حتى “يكسبوا” هذا الحق، إن كان في نية إسرائيل أصلا الاعتراف بهذا الحق. ومن ضمن هذه الأمور الاعتراف نوعا ما بإسرائيل كـ”دولة يهودية”.

وفي انتظار أن يمتثل الفلسطينيون لذلك ويعترفوا بـ”يهودية الدولة”، ستظل إسرائيل ومؤيدوها المتشددون يتغاضون عن حقيقة أن الفلسطينيين يعترفون بالفعل بإسرائيل _اعترافا غير متبادل_  منذ عام 1993.

وسيظل هؤلاء بتصرفاتهم وتصريحاتهم يتعاملون مع القضية وكأن ذلك الاعتراف لم يعد وثيق الصلة بالوضع الحالي، وأن الفلسطينيين لم يعترفوا بإسرائيل إطلاقا، ما لم ينصاعوا لهذا المطلب الجديد.

هي إذن حيلة، دبلوماسية ونفسية وسياسية، بارعة وفعالة، يتمثل تأثيرها في تعقيد الجهود الدبلوماسية بشأن حل الدولتين، وجعل التوصل إلى اتفاق سلام هدفا صعب المنال، هذا بالإضافة إلى الحجب والتعتيم على حقيقة أن الفلسطينيين قد اعترفوا بإسرائيل في الوقت الذي لم تعترف إسرائيل إطلاقا بدولة فلسطين.