Haaretz (with an input from Reuters) reported today that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told journalists in Ramallah on Monday that it was important to know “What kind of state does Mr. Netanyahu have in mind when he says ‘Palestinian state? … I think this is a most fundamental question and I believe, without wishing to really prejudge what will happen in the next few days, the next few weeks, we are approaching that moment of reckoning … Some questions really need to be answered … There is not really a whole lot of time to waste”. Fayyad’s remarks are posted here.
Perhaps not wishing to give it any more attention — or perhaps wanting to avoid certain uproar — Fayyad apparently did not want to ask another important question — which European diplomats here in the region say must also be asked, and that is, what do Israeli leaders mean by the “Jewish State” that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said, as recently as Sunday, the Palestinians must recognize.
Background: UN General Assembly Resolution 181, passed in November 1947 in response to a British request for a solution to the Palestine Mandate, conferred by the League of Nations, called for the establishment of two states: one Jewish and one Arab. This resolution is the basis for both the 14-15 May 1948 proclamation of the State of Israel, and for the November 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State in his 14 reservations on the U.S.-sponsored Road Map of 2003. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State just before the start of the Annapolis process of negotiations launched in November 2007. Olmert’s successor, Benyamin Netanyahu, periodically repeats the same demand — but has occasionally modified his phrasing to call for Palestinian recognition of Israel as “the State of the Jewish People”.
The Palestinians are all over the place in their responses, and even inconsistent (as if this had not already been done by the PLO leadership and endorsed by the Palestine National Council in 1988). Whatever position they choose, it is universally expressed with great frustration and anger. “We don’t care what Israel calls itself”, the current Palestinian leadership has said. Other Palestinians insist that any endorsement of this formula is tantamount to agreeing to future as well as past ethnic cleansing: the expulsion of Israeli-Arab-Palestinians from “the triangle” of Arab cities in Israel’s Galilee region next to the upper West Bank, and — of course — acceptance of Israel’s refusal to envisage the return of any but a tiny few of those Palestinians (and their descendants) who fled or were forced to flee fighting that surrounded the creation of the State of Israel. Still others respond as if this demand can be treated as some kind of bargaining chip, to be dealt with after the establishment of a real Palestinian state…