Commentary Magazine


An Emotionally Satisfying Peace Process

Jeffrey Goldberg writes that he is “agnostic” about whether the Palestinians must acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. He needs three hands to set forth his views:  (1) “on the one hand, it seems to be an unnecessary and provocative demand;” (2) but “on the other hand … it would be emotionally satisfying” if the Palestinians acknowledged Jewish ties to the Land; (3) but “on the other other hand, the success of a peace treaty will not hinge on … whether Palestinians acknowledge [a Jewish state] on paper” but on “more practical, concrete, and internationally-safeguarded guarantees.”

If adjectives were analysis, the issue would be clear: between (a) an “emotionally satisfying” paper acknowledgment and (b) “practical, concrete, and internationally-safeguarded guarantees,” one would presumably prefer the latter – at least until one reflected on the meaning of “safeguarded guarantees” (which apparently are “guaranteed guarantees” from that famously reliable guarantor, the international community).

The flurry of adjectives in Goldberg’s post obscures the issue, which is not emotional satisfaction for Israelis but a requirement that Palestinians explain why, exactly, the demand for recognition of a Jewish state is “provocative.”  Netanyahu articulated the issue last month while visiting Sderot (and returned to the subject of a Jewish state in extended remarks to the cabinet yesterday):

When the Palestinians refuse to say something so simple, the question is – why? You want to flood the State of Israel about refugees so that it will no longer have a Jewish majority? You want to tear off parts of the Galilee and the Negev into mini-states? In a peace agreement, there will be simplest symmetry: Israel recognizes the Palestinian state – and the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state. This is so simple.

Guaranteed guarantees may be emotionally satisfying to peace processors, but peace will not occur until the Palestinians and their Arab supporters are ready to recognize Israel as a Jewish state within defensible borders.