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Opinion: Why Palestinians don’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Palestinian protesters waving national and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine flags chant slogans during a demonstration against U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

What would happen if Palestine officially recognized Israel as a Jewish state? Would it turn the Arab and Islamic worlds upside down? Or would the mother of all wars erupt, scorching the planet with nuclear weapons? Only God knows the answer to the second question. Many people do share the conviction that the end of the world is drawing near, providing as evidence a plethora of indicators foretelling the impending eruption of a nuclear Third World War.

Not everyone has to believe in this hypothesis, so it’s best we leave the realms of the unknown and return to reality.

The response of the Arab and Islamic worlds to Palestine officially recognizing Israel as a Jewish state—if there is any response at all—would probably result in nothing more than some street protests and some loud shouting. Some angry Arabs might put on a show of force; some will issue statements denouncing the decision, or they might publish articles or poems threatening Israel and Palestinian officials with future acts of revenge.

I doubt any such reactions would affect Palestine’s hypothetical decision to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Would it be an exaggeration to say that Israeli politicians—from the founding generation to today’s shifty prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu—have built their policies on the assumption that if Palestinians rejected taking part in any peace process or political settlement it would thereby absolve Israel in the world’s eyes? History shows that Israel has always met Palestinian overtures with maneuvers. Tel Aviv’s duplicity has hinged on the international community’s submission to Israeli arrogance, as much as it has on capitalizing on a Palestinian deference borne out of an entrenched fear of provoking Israel.

Once again, Israel has played a crafty trick by asking the Palestinian Authority to recognize it as a Jewish state, in a bid to spark reactions in Palestine and across the Arab world, as well as among other Muslims who support the Palestinian cause. This, of course, would play into Israel’s hands, since it is not serious about achieving true peace.

It has been said (and will be said again) that such a recognition on the part of the Palestinian Authority would open the door for Tel Aviv to expel Palestinians from Israel into Jordan, as an “alternative homeland.” Although that expression has been repeated since the Six-Day War of 1967, it has proven empty and meaningless. To begin with, Israel originally failed to send Palestinians to Jordan because its backers in major world capitals did not allow it to do so. With transformations taking place around the world, how could Israel get the permission to evacuate Palestinians from their country? Even more, how could anyone assume that 1.5 million Palestinians, who have been standing firm since the establishment of Israel, lack the determination to stand their ground and just quietly flee to Jordan in the face of Israeli violence and threats of ethnic cleansing?

On the other hand, little is said about the Palestine Liberation Organization officially recognizing the state of Israel according to the pre-1967 borders. Moreover, the Palestinian side accepting an Israeli demand is in itself a condemnation of Israel, rather than a redefining act for Palestine. After all, Palestine remains a place where believers of all the heavenly religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—can live in peace.

The Palestinian Authority will not expose this deceptive Israeli mentality by exposing its racism during this age of the globalization. By giving in to Israeli demands for its recognition as a Jewish state, Palestine would prove that it is just another entry in the Israeli record that began when the founders of Israel claimed to have established a secular state.

Have the Palestinians figured out this trick? They most certainly have, but they fear provoking their longstanding enemy with a surprise move. It is therefore no wonder that Palestinian territories continue to shrink while Israeli settlements expand, thanks to John Kerry’s initiative, just the latest in a series started by William Rogers in 1970.