Quote of the Day – 15th in our series: from Netanyahu's interview with CNN

In a silly but revealing interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu made several noteworthy quotes.

The choice, for our Quote of the Day series, however, will go to his remarks explicitly saying that “several Palestinian terrorists” are responsible — though no one has yet been charged, much less tried or convicted — for the bloody murders, a week ago, of five members of a Israeli settler family in their home in the Itamar settlement in the northern West Bank, not far from Nablus.

It was the first time that Netanyahu — or any Israeli government official, for that matter — had made such a specific accusation, though in the media and among the general population, this was the immediate and enduring assumption.

Netanyahu’s explanation segues into an argument about the settlements, and about who wants peace more…

Here are the exact words, from the CNN transcript, posted :

“MORGAN: Prime Minister, there was a horrific murder of the Fogel family last week. The details of which are chilling to read. What was your reaction to that, and where are you with the investigation into the perpetrators?

NETANYAHU: This was horrific. It was savagery. I mean, several Palestinian terrorists came into the home of this Jewish family in the West Bank. They stabbed a three-month old baby girl in the heart, cut her throat. They stabbed her four-year old brother in the heart, cut him in the throat. They stabbed the father with another child and stabbed the mother and left them dying in their blood. And then I visited the family and I saw the 12-year-old girl, a sister who came home and saw this unbelievable massacre. So obviously the first response is sheer horror. And my second response was to send a message to the settlers to contain their rage and not respond because we’d have a cycle of reprisals so I asked them to – not to take the law in their own hands, not to have vigilante actions because this would – could generate a blood bath. I thought that was important to stop that. But we’re now looking for the killers. We’ll find them.

MORGAN: Are you making progress?

NETANYAHU: Some. Some. I think we’ll find them.

Continue reading Quote of the Day – 15th in our series: from Netanyahu's interview with CNN

The Elders…almost a wrap

As a delegation of The Elders wrap up their current Middle East visit, delegation leader Mary Robinson said in Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon, according to their press release, that “Jerusalem lies at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and agreement on its future must also be at the heart of any solution. The changing ethnic and religious character of the city has regional and global implications. As Elders we try to bring hope, but I was shocked at the practices the Jerusalem authorities are being allowed to get away with. All kinds of clever methods are being used to surround and squeeze the Palestinian population – tunnels, settler houses, new roads, and now tourist attractions. A solution must be found that respects the human rights of all.”

Continue reading The Elders…almost a wrap

Why remember PLO decisions of 1993, but not those of 1988?

Why do Palestinian negotiators speak of 1993 exchange of recognition between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), but forget about the PLO’s declarations in 1988?

(1) Yasser Arafat read out, at meeting of the PLO’s Palestine National Council (PNC) in Algiers in November 1988 [almost one year into the first Palestinian Intifada], the PALESTINIAN DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, which says that the 1947 UNGA partition Resolution 181 (endorsing Jewish + Arab states) still provides the legal basis for the right of Palestinian Arab people to national sovereignty and independence — despite historical injustice.

By this, the PLO accepted the State of Israel, and recognized it as a Jewish State.  Now, in 2010, the Palestinians are being squeezed to do the same thing again — but they are reacting with shock and horror, and adamantly refusing.

One main question now  is: if the Palestinians were to repeat, graciously, their earlier decision, would the reaction be a display of Jewish morality — or would it be, instead, Jewish triumphalism and victor’s justice?

(2) In the same meeting of the PLO’s PNC in Algiers in November 1988,  a POLITICAL DECLARATION was adopted stating that Israel should withdraw from all the Palestinian + Arab territories occupied in 1967 (including Arab Jerusalem).

By  claiming the territory occupied in 1967, the PLO  and the Palestinian leadership effectively gave up title to the land between the lines of the 1947 partition resolution and the 1949-1950 Armistice Lines agreed between Israel and its neighbors in UN-sponsored negotiations (more or less the same thing as the 1967 Green Line which Israel crossed in the Six Day War).

Netanyahu elaborates on what he means by "Jewish State" – and, he says, it is also a democratic state

One of the main critiques of recent insistent Israeli demand for Palestinian recognition of a “Jewish State” as a key part of any negotiated solution is: What, exactly, does it mean?

This questions have been asked by persons [including senior European diplomats with long experience in the region] who have what could be argued is a neutral position. Some Israelis also ask the same question.

Palestinian reaction is more visceral: anger. They believe they know what it means: they believe they are being asked to agree to another denial of their rights, and to another Palestinian expulsion.

This issue of a “Jewish State” was first prominently raised, in this decade, by the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in his 14-point letter of reservation about the U.S.-backed Road Map in 2003. There was no strong public reaction at the time, though, it has to be said, most people have not read the Israeli reservations to the Road Map.

It came up again, suddenly, from former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, before the start of the Annapolis process of negotiations sponsored by the U.S. and launched in November 2007, with the goal of the creation of a Palestinian state by the end of 2008 [or, at very latest, by the end of the George W. Bush administration in January 2009]. Though it might have made all the difference in arriving at an early and successful conclusion of those direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, it was set aside upon American advice, because of the strong and confused Palestinian reaction. The Annapolis talks were terminated when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in Gaza on 27 December 2008.

Then, Israeli Prime Minister Benyahim Netanyahu replied, to U.S. President Barack Obama’s highly-publicized speech reaching out to the Muslim world from Cairo, with a speech of his own delivered from Bar Ilan University in which he mentioned the possibility of a demilitarized Palestinian state, if Palestinians recognized Israel as “the state of the Jewish people”.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazen] brushed this off by saying, several times, that he didn’t care what Israel called itself.

Netanyahu made another recent attempt to be more descriptive, concurrent with U.S. efforts to relaunch “direct” Israeli-Palestinian talks with U.S. participation, in September. In a teleconference call with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations [as we reported on our sister blog here], Netanyahu said that this “would be a central part of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. ‘Just say it’, Netanyahu called on Abbas. ‘Say yes to a Jewish state’. The prime minister explained that he was insisting on this because ‘this is a move the Palestinians have refused to make for 62 years. Its significance is Palestinian recognition of the right of the Jewish people to self-definition in their historic homeland. I recognized the Palestinians’ right to self-definition, so they must do the same for the Jewish people’.”

YNet reported last week that “The Prime Minister’s Office said the matter should have no bearing on the peace talks with the Palestinians, since Israel’s first prerequisite in the negotiations is for recognition as the Jewish state”. This is reported here.

Palestinians have, of course, already accepted Israel as a Jewish State when Yasser Arafat issued the Declaration of Independence of the Palestinian State in November 1988, then more explicitly [at U.S. insistence] at a UN meeting and then press conference in Geneva in December 1988. In these events, Arafat [with the endorsement of the PLO’s Palestine National Council] accepted UN General Assembly resolution 181 of 29 November 1947, which — at Britain’s request for the newly-created UN to decide on the disposition of the British mandate of Palestine awarded by the UN’s predecessor, the Geneva-based League of Nations — divided Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish.

The Palestinians, however, seem to have forgotten…

Today, at the start of the regular weekly cabinet session, Netanyahu linked the argument back to the controversial Citizenship oath he has backed, saying: “Today, the Cabinet will discuss an amendment to the Citizenship Law, to the effect that anyone seeking to become a naturalized Israeli citizen will declare the he or she will be a loyal citizen of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In 1896, Theodor (Binyamin Zeev) Herzl wrote: ‘The Jews who are seeking a state will have a state. Finally, we will live as free people on our own land’. Fifty-one years later, on the eve of independence, David Ben-Gurion wrote: ‘The state that will be established will be Jewish in its purpose, designation and objective; not a state of those Jews who reside in the country but a state for the Jews, for the Jewish People’. Our Declaration of Independence says: ‘We hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, to be known as the state of Israel”

[There was no mention of Israel being a democratic state in 1948 — the democratic system was not universal at the time, nor was it until the end of the Cold War in 1989 + 1990…]

Netanyahu continued today: “In 1992, the Knesset – in Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty – determined: ‘The purpose of this Basic Law is to protect human dignity and liberty, in order to establish in a Basic Law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state’.

[This was the first official declaration of Israel being a democratic state…]

Continue reading Netanyahu elaborates on what he means by "Jewish State" – and, he says, it is also a democratic state

Netayahu takes a stab at defining what he means by "national state of the Jewish people"

Two days before the second set of “direct” Israeli-Palestinian talks is due to start in Sharm ash-Sheikh, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu made these public remarks during the weekly meeting of his Cabinet in Jerusalem on Sunday — taking a stab at defining what he means when he says Palestinians must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people [this formulation is Netanyahu’s own improvement over the shorthand version used by previous Israeli Prime Ministers, beginning with Ariel Sharon, who have insisted that Palestinians should recognize Israel as a “Jewish State” — though, as can be seen below, Netanyahu slips this formulation in, as well].

Netanyahu said on Sunday that: “A peace agreement is based – first of all – on the recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish People. The conflict between us and the Palestinians, as opposed to other conflicts that were resolved by peace agreements, is over the same piece of ground. We say that the solution is two states for two peoples, meaning two national states, a Jewish national state and a Palestinian national state. To my regret, I have yet to hear from the Palestinians the phrase ‘two states for two peoples’. I hear them saying ‘two states’ but I do not hear them recognizing two states for two peoples. In 1947, David Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary, and I quote: ‘The state to be established will be Jewish in its role, its designation and its goal. Not a state of Jews who live in the country, but a state for the Jews, for the Jewish People.’ It is clear that his intention was that there would be full equality of civil rights in the Jewish national state, as indeed is the case in the State of Israel, but the foundation of the State of Israel is that it is the national state of the Jewish People. This is the true basis for an end to claims against the State of Israel and for the end of the conflict between the two peoples. Just as we are asked to recognize the Palestinian national state, and I expressed this national agreement during the past year, we also demand and expect the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state, the State of Israel, as the national state of the Jewish People. This is the true foundation of peace“.

This is the time for the Palestinian negotiators to take on this matter, and ask for international guarantees…

Meanwhile, according to a summary translation provided by the Israeli Government Press Office, Nachum Barnea wrote an opinion piece published today in Yediot Ahronot saying that, “According to Netanyahu’s remarks yesterday, it seems that he has chosen to make the demand to recognize Israel as the Jewish state into the issue, and thus put Abu Mazen in a corner: Abu Mazen will say [insist on] the [settlement] freeze, Netanyahu will say recognition. Both will refuse and thus will be created a balance of blame.”

UPDATE: YNET is reporting on Monday evening that Tuesday’s scheduled talks in Sharm ash-Sheikh are getting off to a bad start. A subheadline reads: “Statement on restarting direct negotiations expected to be postponed”, and the text of the story reports that “The [Israeli] Prime Minister’s Office announced Monday that the media events scheduled to take place during the summit have been cancelled … A press conference sponsored by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which was slated to take place at the Hayatt Hotel has also been canceled … [T]he differences of opinion between Israel and the Palestinians do not allow a festive announcement. The disagreements between Israel and the Palestinians have grown stronger over the past few days, particularly in terms of the settlement construction problem. US President Barack Obama declared over the weekend that he would make it clear to Netanyahu that Israel must continue the settlement freeze as long as the direct negotiations go on. In response, Netanyahu announced during a Likud ministers’ meeting and during his meeting with Quartet envoy Tony Blair that Israel would not be able to continue the freeze, but that the construction would be restrained”. This report can be read in full here.

According to this YNet report, the U.S. State Department has announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in Jerusalem for further talks on Wednesday, and will then visit the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah on Thursday.

Quote of the day – (6th in our series)

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…

Netanyahu explains his speech: Palestinians must recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people

After nearly missing this Sunday’s regular meeting of the Israeli cabinet, reportedly because of something in his eye (which was treated). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed up, and, according to a Cabinet communiqué, Netanyahu elaborated on his speech at Bar-Ilan University last Sunday.

According to the communiqué. Netanyahu said that “… The items that I presented are not conditions for the start of negotiations. We do not condition the start of negotiations on any conditions; on the contrary, we insist that there be no pre-conditions either by our side or by the other side …

“The two main points that I sought to emphasize were: First of all, that we are talking about two states for two peoples and one of these is the Jewish People, and the Jewish People are entitled to a national state of their own. Of course, there are non-Jews in it and they enjoy full civil rights but the state is a state of the Jewish people, with the symbols, language and holidays of the Jewish people, and with the ability of every Jew to immigrate here and become a citizen, what is incorrect regarding the so-called ‘right of return.’ This will not be implemented in the State of Israel.

It was important to me to emphasize that the Palestinian side must recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish People just as we are being asked to recognize the Palestinian state as the national state of the Palestinian people. Moreover, a peace agreement must put an end to their claims in this regard and to all claims, and put an end to the conflict.
Continue reading Netanyahu explains his speech: Palestinians must recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people

Palestinians asked, again, to say: "Israel is the national state of the Jewish People"

The Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, might have been a bit surprised tonight to have heard Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say, in a speech that had a big advance build-up, that he views them essentially as a bunch of intruders: “In the very heart of our Jewish homeland today there is a large population of Palestinians”.

Netanyahu said that Palestinians are living in the Jewish homeland and they must recognize Jewish right to be there.

Netanyahu’s speech, at Bar-Ilan University not far from Tel Aviv, was planned and designed as the answer to U.S. President Barak Obama’s speech to the Muslim world from Cairo University on 4 June.

“Our links with the land of Israel, and the presence of Palestinian people living here, have led to many problems”, Netanyahu said.

What the Palestinians have to do, for peace, is “to accept that the Jewish people have a right to live in its historical homeland”, Netanyahu said. “If Palestinian leaders say these simple words to our people, then the path/road will open up”.

Palestinians must accept “the State of Israel as a Jewish State”, Netanyahu said.

Palestinians could live as a “free” people, side-by-side with the Jewish people, with each having its own “national existence”, Netanyahu said, if (1) they recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people, and if (2) they agree that “the Palestinian entity must be demilitarized”, with Israel having a real defensive edge.

But the question is is about what Netanyahu means when he suggests that the Palestinians, in his vision, would be “free”.

Continue reading Palestinians asked, again, to say: "Israel is the national state of the Jewish People"