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.

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.
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