x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Israel was never intended to be exclusively a Jewish state

The international legitimacy of Israel as a member state of the United Nations remains in question as long as the Palestinian state is not established.

For a few years now, several Israeli leaders have been using the slogan "two states for two peoples", thus making the recognition of the Jewishness of the state of Israel a condition in the framework of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

And it is not only Israeli leaders who are doing this: the US president, Barack Obama, embraced the Zionist ideology and promoted the Jewish character of Israel in his Jerusalem speech in March.

Israel was established as a state based on UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, which was adopted to end the British mandate in Palestine, in light of the impossibility of establishing a single democratic state, largely due to the aims of the Zionist movement.

The resolution was drafted after the terrible atrocities against Jews committed by the Nazis, resulting in the need to clear the conscience of Europe.  The proposed solution, however, was not to be found within Europe itself, but in Palestine, causing a great injustice to the indigenous - and innocent - Palestinian population.

It is true that Resolution 181 speaks of the establishment of two states: one Jewish and one Arab. However, the Jewish state was never to be exclusively Jewish. In fact, it was to include a Palestinian population of 43 per cent.

Similarly, the resolution never acknowledged the establishment of a religious or ethnic state: there are clear provisions to ensure fundamental rights for minorities.

Resolution 181 did not approve the displacement of the majority of the Palestinian people. Nor did it approve the possibility of annexing the territories of the "Arab" Palestinian state to the "Jewish" state.

The state of Israel, as it was born on May 15, 1948, was not the "Jewish state" described in the partition resolution; nor was the state of Israel as it stood on June 11, 1967.

Meanwhile, the "Arab state" described in the partition resolution was not a state of refugees, not a state on less than 22 per cent of the area of Palestine, not a state of Israeli settlements, and not a state containing an apartheid wall.

Therefore, the use of the partition resolution terminology by Israeli officials in today's reality has no connection to the resolution itself.

One may well question Israel's motives in demanding recognition of the "Jewishness" of Israel from the Palestinian negotiator. Unfortunately, this a clear attempt to justify the basic principle of Zionism; to justify the annexation of the settlement blocs and most of Arab Jerusalem; to continue to discriminate against Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel by treating them as third-class citizens; and to completely close the door to the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Moreover, if Palestine were to accept this recognition, then all final status issues (Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements) would largely be predetermined before anyone even sat down at the negotiating table. As well as creating intractable physical facts on the ground, Israel is working strategically so that it can present the world with a fait accompli, unilaterally forcing the outcome of the situation.

The declaration of independence of Palestine of November 1988 recognises Resolution 181 as providing the legal basis to ensure the right of self-determination and sovereignty of the Palestinian people "despite the historical injustice inflicted" upon them. Israel committed to implementing Resolution 181 as a condition of its membership in the UN in 1949.

Therefore, as long as the independent state of Palestine is not established and the issue of refugees is not resolved, the definition of Israel is not an internal affair, but one related to the matter of international legitimacy, particularly Resolutions 181 and 194 (on the issue of refugees).

Moreover, the international legitimacy of Israel as a member state of the United Nations remains in question as long as the Palestinian state is not established.

Instead of reformulating Israel into a "Jewish state" the focus should be the provision of the foundations of life, dignity and independence for the Palestinian people. Regional and international efforts must be accelerated in response to this dangerous and deliberate Israeli procrastination.

The recognition of Palestine as an observer state in the United Nations represents an important step towards the achievement of Palestinian rights, because it formally recognises the 1967 border, and quashes the Israeli myth of "disputed" territory, as well as seeking to salvage the internationally endorsed two-state solution.

In this context, the international community, and particularly the western world, needs to meet its responsibilities. The Palestinians, inside and outside of Israel, should not be made to bear the brunt of the West's support for the Zionist project, support borne out of a European attempt to clear its conscience for crimes committed against the Jews, by making the Palestinians pay the price of those crimes, for which they were in no way responsible.

The Palestinian acceptance of the two-state solution does not negatively affect the national and civil rights of the Palestinians in Israel. We are not immigrants, nor settlers.

The two-state solution does not mean "two states for two peoples", it means two states living side by side in peace and security; each of which is a state for all its citizens, not a state of one particular religion.

It is therefore imperative that the trap of "two states for two peoples" is avoided by all.


Mohammad Barakeh is a Palestinian Member of the Israeli Knesset.