Thursday, January 02, 2014

Poison pill

Of course, Netanyahu's insistence that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state is a poison pill. Israel did not insist on such recognition from Jordan and Egypt, and Israel's treaties with those two countries make no mention of Israel's Jewishness, even when they discuss the terms of recognition. Why didn't Israel insist on those terms in the 70s and 90s when those agreements were being negotiated? Because Israel wanted peace with Egypt and Jordan.

Besides, countries don't normally recognize each other's religious or ethnic character. Recognition is about stuff like sovereignty, borders, and rights to resources, not how each country cares to define itself. Years ago when I was poking around the law library in law school, I stumbled upon the text of the document in which the U.S. first recognized the Kingdom of Persia (what is now Iran). I don't recall any mention of the Shi'a character of that country in the document. Nor should sovereign recognition be tied to any particular ethnic or religious group. If the people of France decided to do a mass conversion to Episcopalianism, I don't think it would lose international recognition from any other country.

The insistence that Palestinians go further than any other country is required to do, and to recognize not just the existence, sovereignty, and borders of Israel, but its Jewish identity--an identity which is inherently discriminatory against ethnic Palestinians living in Israel--is absurd. There's no point other than to make it virtually impossible for Palestinian negotiators to ever say "yes" to an agreement.