Do Palestinians have to become Zionists?

Netanyahu For months now, the Israeli government has been maintaining that the Palestinians must accept Israel as a Jewish state.  In his recent policy speech at Bar Ilan University, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "Therefore, a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people."

I really don’t understand the obsession with getting the Palestinians to accept a “Jewish state.”  All I care about is that they accept us as a “sovereign state.”  I’m happy to accept Saudi Arabia as a “sovereign state.”  Why do I have to accept it as a “Muslim state?”  I accept China as a “sovereign state,” do I have to accept it as a Communist and totalitarian state?  What difference does it make? 

As far as I know, the Jordanians and Egyptians never accepted us specifically as a Jewish state.  This insistence that the Palestinians accept us as a “Jewish” state strikes me as incredibly petty and paranoid.  Are we really so insecure in our place in the world that we have to force people who might disagree with some of our principles to “accept” them?  It is perfectly legitimate for people to think that Israel should be a secular democracy of all her citizens.  A lot of Jews think it should be (I’m NOT one of them, personally I prefer that Israel has an avowedly Jewish character).

The whole push to force the Palestinians to “accept us” as a “Jewish” state (and what the heck does that mean anyway, we can’t even agree among ourselves who is a Jew) strikes me as an attempt to taunt them similar to the border patrol guards making Palestinians sing “I love the border patrol” (captured on YouTube, see ).   

I feel no need to force Palestinians to be Zionists.  I will settle for them stopping terrorists, and being peaceful neighbors.

Reb Barry

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

6 thoughts on “Do Palestinians have to become Zionists?

  • I also find this request very odd – simply because, as you pointed out, recognition as a ‘sovereign state’ is what the argument should be about.
    That just sounds to me as the ‘say uncle!’ clause in the deal…

  • justayid

    Its a way to pre-empt the demand for the palestinian right of return, and other issues that suggest that many Palestinians are interested in a two state solution as a way to simply get two palestinians states. “two states for two peoples” might be an alternative formulation.

  • To justayid…doesn’t them accepting us as a “sovereign state” accomplish exactly the same thing ?

  • No. Arafat famously said that he would accept the “two-stage” solution, and that Palestine would be “liberated” by agreeing to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and then later the “rest of Palestine” (i.e. Israel) would be “liberated.” The PA itself has claimed it cannot recognize Israel as a Jewish state (despite the fact that the UN Partition resolution calls for two states, one Jewish and one Arab) because this would prejudge the “rights” of the Palestinians seeking a right of return. Numerous Palestinian officials have said at various times and various ways that they will not recognize the “Jewish” character of the state because it would (paraphrasing here) prejudice their right to claim Israel as part of Palestine in the future.

    The insistence on recognizing Israel as a Jewish state in reality puts an end to Palestinian territorial claims and ends this war. I don’t think they want to end this war, seriously. Not since the PA turned down Olmert’s offer. I think the plan is to continue a war of attrition and on the diplomatic front, continue to insist on unrealistic “non-negotiable” demands. Sad.

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