President Shimon Peres, as to be expected, presented Israel’s vision for peace in a dignified manner at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It is only regrettable that during his conversation with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad Peres did not clearly present Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. “A Palestinian state for the Palestinian people and an Israeli state for the Israeli people,” Peres said multiple times. It could simply have been a mistake on his part, or perhaps he did not want to get into a prolonged argument with his partner in dialogue. Either way, it is unfortunate because this subject is in fact the heart of the problem between Israelis and Palestinians. There are those who say, “We do not need Arabs’ recognition, and it is obvious that we are the Jewish state,” but if it’s so obvious, then why does the Arab world refuse to say so?
The Palestinians’ refusal is not a matter of semantics, but rather a declaration that they do not recognize the Jewish people’s right to their own country. Moreover, in their eyes the Jews are not a nation, they are only members of a religion — and if they are not a nation they do not deserve a country and do not have the right to self-determination like other nations. One could assume that part of this position is motivated by self-defense. After all, the Palestinians, or at least the intellectuals among them, know that their claim to be a “nation” or “people” is flimsy at best from factual and historical standpoints.
None other than Palestinian-American nationalist Professor Rashid Khalidi, a friend of U.S. President Barack Obama from his Chicago days, confirmed that Arabs living in “Palestine” began seeing themselves as a separate national entity only at the beginning of the 20th century, in the wake of the Ottoman Empire’s dissolution and as a response to Zionism. In this regard, U.S. presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was right: The “Palestinian nation” is a new invention, even if the formula of “two states for two peoples” has become rooted in the world out of political, demographic or other reasons.
If anyone would like to know why the recent peace talks in Amman, or the peace process in general, have not progressed, they need not look far. The negotiations have stalled not just because of borders or security, or the status of Jerusalem or Palestinian refugees, but mainly due to the wholesale Palestinian refusal, explicitly or not, to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. This is nothing new: Even when leftist governments took part in earlier chapters of the peace process, the Palestinians differentiated between recognizing “Israel’s existence” and recognizing the Jewish peoples’ right to a homeland.
In recent years, the Palestinians’ propaganda of denial has become more noticeable in statements against Israel throughout the world. Israel is an illegal “colonialist state” that supposedly stole another people’s land. As attorney Alan Dershowitz wrote: “Of all the countries in the world, Israel is the most legal. But despite being founded by a United Nations decision, and having its declaration of independence recognized by most of the world, Israel is the only nation whose legitimacy is questioned by its enemies and is doubted by others. Other nations are also criticized, but only when speaking of Israel does the criticism turn to accusations, delegitimization and calls for its destruction.” It’s a shame that the source of these claims at times come from our own people both in Israel and abroad.