Media Blog

Bush Gets to the Heart of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

So says The Jerusalem Post in this editorial titled “10 essential words” (extracts below).

“The agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people.”
– US President George W. Bush, January 10 (emphasis added)
This sentence may seem like nothing new, just another restatement of the two-state vision. But the last 10 words are the key to resolving the conflict, a missing element whose absence has caused the peace process to oscillate between stalemate and war rather than move steadily toward lasting peace.
These words are critical because they signal an end to the Arab world’s double game. On the one hand, the Arab states and the Palestinians have claimed to embrace the two-state plan. On the other, the Arab side has demanded something that completely negates the most fundamental prerequisite of the two-state concept, namely mutual recognition of each side’s national rights.
The Arab demand for a “right of return” is utterly asymmetrical; according to this demand, Palestinians have a right to move to Israel, while Jews not only have no right to move to a future Palestinian state, but those who live now within the future borders of that state must leave.
… If Palestinians have a right to move to Israel, and Jews or Israelis can’t move to Palestine, then the Palestinians are saying: What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine. They are denying Israel’s sovereignty and therefore the Jewish state’s right to exist.
… If Israel is not a Jewish state, meaning a state with a large Jewish majority, then it will become another Arab state.
For Israel, its Jewish character is not a matter of religious preference – unlike the Arab world, Israel protects religion freedom and respects all holy places – but of existence. In this context, the Arab refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state, along with the denial of Jewish history and of Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, is tantamount to rejecting Israel’s existence.
… The Arab states could change the climate completely if they would do two things: meet Israeli leaders and say, as Bush did, that the Jewish people has a right to a state just as the Palestinians do. Such actions cannot wait for an agreement because, without them, there will be no agreement, only more stalemate and war.

Tom Gross — Tom Gross is a former Middle East correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and the New York Daily News.

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