The author and the NYT are know for their bias in favour of the Palestinian position and for their support for the Obama administration. They often distort and misrepresent facts. Beware. Ted Belman
Sticking Point in Peace Talks
ByÂ JODI RUDOREN,Â NYT
JERUSALEM – As Middle East peace talks churn on,Â IsraelÂ has catapulted to the fore an issue that may be even more intractable than old ones like security and settlements: a demand that thePalestiniansÂ recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Prime MinisterÂ Benjamin NetanyahuÂ has made suchÂ recognitionÂ the pillar of his public statements in recent weeks, calling it “the real key to peace,” “the minimal requirement” and “an essential condition.” Israeli, American and Palestinian officials all say it has become a core issue in the negotiations that started last summer.
But Mr. Netanyahu’s argument that this single issue underpins all others is exactly what makes it unacceptable to Palestinians. At its heart, it is a dispute over a historical narrative that each side sees as fundamental to its existence.
Critics skeptical of Mr. Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution to the long-running conflict say that recognition of a Jewish state is a poison pill that he is raising only to scuttle the talks. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has repeatedly said that the Palestinians will never agree to it, most recently in a letter to President Obama last month.
The Palestinians cite both pragmatic and philosophical reasons: They contend that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would disenfranchise its 1.6 million Arab citizens, undercut the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees and, most important, require a psychological rewriting of the story they hold dear about their longtime presence in the land.
But Israeli leaders say that the refugee question can be resolved separately and that the status of Israel’s Arab minority can be protected. Without acceptance by the Palestinians that their neighbor is and will be, in Israel’s favored formulation, “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” Israelis argue that they can never be convinced that an agreement truly spells the end of the conflict.
“The core of this conflict has never been borders and settlements – it’s about one thing: the persistent refusal to accept the Jewish state in any border,”Â Mr. Netanyahu said last monthÂ in a video statement to the Saban Forum in Washington.
He added: “We recognize that in peace there will be a nation-state for the Palestinian people. Surely we’re entitled to expect them to do the same.”
The gulf between the two sides on the issue highlights a broader question critical to the outcome of the talks: whether a peace deal must reconcile conflicting versions of the past, or whether it can allow each version some legitimacy and focus on paving a path forward.