Foreign Policy Watch

Geopolitical musings through a progressive lens …by Matt Eckel and Jeb Koogler

Identity Matters: Recognition of a Jewish State

Michael Oren has an op-ed in the Times today calling for Palestinian recognition of the Jewish character of the Israeli state. Diplomatic boilerplate for the most part, complete with slipshod logic and sophistic rhetorical flourishes, but worth a read if only as an example of decent PR work. This whole issue seems like no more than another roadblock/blame-shifting strategy by Netanyahu, and I wouldn’t expect the Palestinian leadership to take it particularly seriously. Like Yglesias, I think that if Israel were serious about negotiating a settlement with the PA it wouldn’t keep hunting for new excuses to avoid brass tacks. Legitimacy is one of the few things that Israel actually wants from the Palestinians, and to expect them to make concessions to that effect as a precondition for talks makes little sense.

That said, it’s worth pointing out again that, from the perspective of Israeli nationalists, demanding recognition of Israel’s Jewish character from Palestinians external to Green Line Israel is really quite stupid. Regardless of what, if any, accord is ever reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, twenty percent of Israeli citizens are of Palestinian ethnicity. Their status in an explicitly Jewish state seems likely to be an issue of serious political contention at some future point, and if I were an Israeli nationalist I wouldn’t want to have invited the broader Palestinian community into the debate. It seems clear that more short term considerations are at work at the moment, but in the long run, taking this stance seems like a poor strategic choice.

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  1. Since the settlement freeze, I would say that both parties are at a standstill in the negotiations. This probably means that both groups see an opportunity to push for rather extreme measures, from the subjective side's view of course, and then work their way towards a middle ground when the negotiations begin again.

    I think that until the settlement problem is resolved this is how the negotiations are going to go for a while.

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  2. I may be wrong, but I see this as a sign that the Netanyahu administration is preparing to offer serious concessions – between the issue of the loyalty oath for non-Jewish Israeli immigrants and this recognition demand it is positioning itself domestically as a staunch defender of Israeli Jewish values, which it will need to maintain in order to keep the coalition in the face of serious concessions during negotiations.

    Of course, you never know with Israeli politics.