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ISRAEL: The 'Jewish state' debate

The new Israeli government is currently engaged in what it's calling a "policy review." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's peace policies seemed pretty clear until the recent elections, but now his new government is consolidating its policies, which will be outlined in Netanyahu's meeting with President Obama in May.

Meanwhile, much scrambling for diplomatic foothold is taking place. In his recent meeting with U.S. envoy George J. Mitchell, Netanyahu was said to demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The U.S. said this was not a precondition to the talks, and Netanyahu swiftly clarified that this wasn't actually a condition for beginning talks, only for making progress in the future. 

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as much about the past as it is about the future, and both sidesTruman promptly jumped into an old argument.

The Palestinians said the U.S. had agreed to recognize the state of Israel by its given name but not as the Jewish state, referring people to the document signed by President Truman in May 1948. In the document, the phrase "Jewish state" was crossed out and replaced with "State of Israel."

Professor Shlomo Avineri, Hebrew University political scientist, dismisses the Palestinian position as a half-truth. The full one, he explained earlier this week over the radio, is that on the eve of Israel's establishment, the Jewish Agency had turned to Truman and asked for U.S. recognition of the Jewish state upon its proclamation in keeping with the UN decision. The American leadership discussed the issue, and Truman's position in favor prevailed over some disagreements.

The original document was drafted before the Jewish state had been proclaimed as Israel and says that "The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new Jewish state." Meanwhile, the state had been proclaimed and the document amended in handwriting by Truman's assistant, who had replaced "the new Jewish state" with the "new state of Israel." (For a chronology of the U.S. and recognition of Israel, click here.)

The U.S. recognized the provisional government as the representative of the new state that was founded in keeping with the UN's decision on the partition of Palestine into two states -- a Jewish one and an Arab one. The Arabs had rejected the partition. Avineri points out that while UN decisions often meet with disagreement, including from Israel, this is the only time in which an actual war was launched against a UN decision. Palestinian officials' answer to this argument is that if Netanyahu agrees to return to the lines of the old UN partition plan (which outlined a smaller Israel), they'd consider recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

Arab Israeli legislator Ahmad Tibi pointed out that nowhere in the peace treaties signed with Israel were Egypt or Jordan obliged to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. True, they weren't. But they didn't demand the right of return for refugees, which Israel maintains will destroy it as a Jewish state. Some say this is what the conundrum is really about. Others say Netanyahu is just being difficult, introducing obstacles and promptly removing them to produce instant concessions.

Truman continues to be linked to Israel and the quest for peace: Check out the website of the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace in Jerusalem.

-- Batsheva Sobelman

Image: The U.S. document in question. Source: The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum website.


Comments () | Archives (4)

I can not believe how much attention this gets! Complete and total controlled propaganda. Let us all stand up and say"Oh great Israel, give us a break! There are people dying in droves and the Jewish lobby is so self absorbed. As soon as i hear israel, I change the channel. There are actually people suffering out there and they dont live in Israel.

They realize that unfettered American support is running out but another false flag operation (ie 9/11/2001& the 1950's Lavon Affair)will occur that will whip the American's into a frenzy and guarantee an increase support for Israel again. The US is always fight proxy wars.

All these academic points are taken.
Who's going to free millions of peoples from daily death and hunger while they're living under foreign military boots for last 60 years! there is no other case like this which don't seems to be ending anytime soon but yet being diluted in importance with bringing other irrelevant conflicts in the world in to this particular case.

Wow, how interesting. I don't seen any time and space being wasted on how 22 countries in North Africa and the Middle East define themselves as "Arab" states, or either "Muslim" states or "Islamic Republics." But this? This is beyond farce but then again, Netanyahu is in charge so expect more this idiocy. I wonder if the Israelis are truly ignorant that the clock is running out on them (in terms of unfettered American support.)


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