Israeli Arabs lobby against ‘Jewish’ state
ISRAELI ARAB politicians are behind the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state at the forthcoming Annapolis summit, the JC has learned.
The PA has so far firmly denied Israeli demands for them to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state as part of a joint declaration to be revealed at the summit, scheduled for November 27.
Saeb Erekat, the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, said that while they were prepared to recognise Israel’s right to exist, “we cannot accept recognition of Israel as a Jewish state”.
One of the main reasons for the Palestinian refusal is pressure brought on the Palestinian leadership by representatives of Israeli Arabs, who claim that any such recognition would undermine their efforts to achieve rights within Israel as a national minority.
Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi, whose Arab Movement for Change party demands that Israel should be defined as a state of all its nationalities rather than exclusively Jewish, told the JC that he visited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week and urged him to hold fast on this subject.
“We explained to them that there is no connection between their negotiations and the identity of the state. That can only be determined in an internal democratic debate, here in the Knesset. It’s not the business of the Palestinian Authority, the United States or Nicaragua. All Olmert is trying to do is score a few points since he knows that nothing is going to come out of Annapolis.”
A senior Israeli diplomatic source warned: “If the Palestinians hold out on this, it will be a severe blow for Olmert’s hopes from Annapolis. Just going to the summit and reaffirming the commitment to a two-state solution is nothing new. He needs to come back with at least some kind of achievement, and a Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state could have been just that.”
Israeli Arab academic Aida Thoma, who helped write a position paper on the future of Arab citizens, said it was interesting “that Israel feels it needs Abu Mazen’s agreement that it’s a Jewish state. The negotiations with the PA are over the Palestinian state and the end of the occupation, while our struggle for recognition of our rights as a national minority is an internal one.”
MK Ahmed Tibi: lobbying for Israel to be described ‘a state of all its citizens’