While the Obama administration is trying to ward off the Palestinians’ ill-conceived bid for unilateral recognition as an Arab state at the UN General Assembly, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is proving to be as obstructionist and hypocritical as his late predecessor, Yasir Arafat. “Don’t order us to recognize a Jewish state,” Abbas declared last week. “We won’t accept it.”
Never mind that he envisions an Arab Palestine that is Judenrein (that is, free of Jews). “I’m willing to agree to a third party that would supervise [an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement], such as NATO forces, but I would not agree to having Jews among the NATO forces, or that there will live among us even a single Israeli on Palestinian land,” Abbas said in Cairo on July 28, 2010.
Never mind that Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as Mauritanian in West Africa for that matter, are all officially “Islamic Republics,” that Egypt and Syria call themselves “Arab Republics,” that Jordan by its own definition is a “Hashemite,” meaning directly descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, kingdom, and that the website of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia proclaims that country to be “a modern nation that adheres to Islam, honors its Arab heritage and tradition, and presses vigorously forward in the service of Islam ….”
According to Abbas’ Islamocentric geopolitical ethos, Arabs are entitled to a myriad of Muslim states scattered across the Middle East and North Africa, but he will not countenance a single Jewish state in his neighborhood.
In fact, the international community recognized Israel as a Jewish state long before Abbas and his cohorts ever came on the scene.
On Oct. 11, 1947, Hershel V. Johnson, the United States deputy representative to the United Nations, explained at a meeting of the UN Special Committee on Palestine that “as a result of the First World War, a large area of the Near East, including Palestine, was liberated and a number of states gained their independence. The United States, having contributed its blood and resources to the winning of that war, felt that it could not divest itself of a certain responsibility for the manner in which the freed territories were disposed of, or for the fate of the peoples liberated at that time. It took the position that, these peoples should be prepared for self-government and also that a national home for the Jews should be established in Palestine.” (Emphasis added.)
Moreover, Johnson continued, “in 1917 the Government of the United Kingdom, in the statement known as the Balfour Declaration, announced that it viewed with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and that it would use its best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of that object, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” (Emphasis added.)
In this vein, Article 2 of the League of Nations’ 1922 Mandate entrusting control over Palestine to the United Kingdom specifically provided that “The Mandatory [i.e., the United Kingdom] shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home … and the development of self -governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.” (Emphasis added.)
Paradoxically enough, it was Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet Union’s ambassador to the United Nations, who most succinctly expressed the rationale underlying the partition of Palestine. “The experience gained from the study of the Palestinian question,” he declared on Nov. 27, 1947, “including the experience of the Special Committee, has shown that Jews and Arabs in Palestine do not wish or are unable to live together. The logical conclusion followed that, if these two peoples that inhabit Palestine, both of which have deeply rooted historical ties with the land, cannot live together within the boundaries of a single State, there is no alternative but to create, in place of one country, two States — an Arab and a Jewish one. It is, in the view of our delegation, the only workable solution.” (Emphasis added.)
Two days later, on Nov. 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 which called for the establishment of “Independent Arab and Jewish States” in Palestine. The Zionist leadership agreed to abide by the terms of the Resolution 181, which also provided for the internationalization of Jerusalem, and set aside a wholly inadequate part of Palestine for the future Jewish state. Had the Arab nations done so as well, an Arab Palestinian state would have come into being in the spring of 1948. Instead, six Arab armies unsuccessfully sought to destroy the fledgling State of Israel on May 15, 1948.
It is all too often forgotten that during and after Israel’s War of Independence, it was Jordan, not Israel, which occupied the West Bank and frustrated any hopes of Palestinian statehood for almost two decades.
Echoing Gromyko’s reasoning almost 64 years later, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé crossed a European Rubicon of sorts when he publicly declared earlier this summer that “there will be no solution to the conflict in the Middle East without recognition of two nation-states for two peoples. The nation-state of Israel for the Jewish people and the nation-state of Palestine for the Palestinian people.”
Unless and until Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders follow suit and acknowledge that Israel is not just another nation state but was created to be a homeland and refuge for Jews the world over, there can be no hope for any genuine Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Menachem Z. Rosensaft is adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School, lecturer in law at Columbia Law School and distinguished visiting lecturer at Syracuse University College of Law.