Kerry's "Jewish state" blunder

Ran Dagoni

Dismissing Netanyahu's demand helps him block the peace process.

Last week's remarks by US Secretary of State John Kerry about the "mistake" being made by "certain people" when they raise "again and again" the demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state is the greatest gift that Obama administration could have given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Here's a sledgehammer, Netanyahu, go break up the peace process. Your backside is covered.

In a previous column, after President Barack Obama's interview with "Bloomberg", in which he promised to tell Netanyahu at their upcoming meeting, "If not now, if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?" I compared the pressure on Netanyahu with the Jew whom the tyrant ordered to teach his dog to speak within five years. When the Jew was asked what would happen, he replied, "By then, either the tyrant will die, or the dog will die, or the Messiah will come." And now, wonder of wonders, God willed it and the Messiah came to the Prime Minister's Office riding on a State Department donkey.

Kerry's unwise remark about Netanyahu's "mistake" will give the prime minister a Jewish majority, both among Israelis, and more importantly, Jews in the American Diaspora, and with them, Congress and a large section of the US public. This is an opposition that the White House will struggle to overcome if it tries to put Netanyahu back on the straight and narrow.

The Obama administration has long been trying, with a great deal of success, in eroding the moral basis of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians (who gave global resonance to "concerns" of an international boycott against Israel?), but the decision to pull Netanyahu out of the corner of the Jewish state, caused by over exuberance, in order to expedite the peace process, misunderstood the Israeli mentality and Jewish sensibilities, and was an own goal. It allowed Netanyahu to be depicted as a moral righteous man who is trying to rebuff those who are trying to rob Israelis of ownership of the land of their forefathers, whose borders have become blurred over the years.

All of a sudden, this moral card is now in Netanyahu's hands, and it does not matter that, from the outset, the goal to force the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state had the added value of foiling the peace process, a tactical formula intended to give Israel breathing room until the 2016 US presidential elections.

Obama and Kerry may have been encouraged by Netanyahu and AIPAC's failure to persuade Congress to impose new sanctions against Iran at the height of the negotiations with it, against the administration's position. That was indeed a spectacular defeat by Israel's friends in the US. But no legislator, Democratic or Republican, will lend a hand to the effort to cleave what the Israel lobby created as the eternal ties between Israel and the US, regardless of what the administration argues and will argue that everyone agrees that Israel is a Jewish state, that even UN Resolution 181 to partition the British Mandate says this, and that Yasser Arafat agreed to it (twice).

The effort to emasculate Kerry's initiative over the issue of the Jewish state will be a winning bet for AIPAC and a new opportunity for Republicans to derail the Obama administration. Even those who understand the cynical ploy of Netanyahu's demand to make the peace process beholden to Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, know that this demand has a deeper psychological layer - that "we are not suckers". Israeli Jews have paid and continue to pay the mortgage for this country in blood, sweat and tears. They will not let any American delete them from the Land Registry with sugarcoated promises that "everyone knows" that Israel is their home.

After all, what is a Jewish state for the purposes of negotiations with the Palestinians? A state that is not for all its citizens? A state whose citizens study Torah all day? A state where the cars don’t drive on the Sabbath? No, for our purposes, a Jewish state is just a non-Arab state, a way of hermetically sealing the back door against attempts to realize the Palestinian right of return.

The Palestinians want a state with geographical continuity. Israelis want a state with demographic continuity. That is fine. The Obama administration's effort to crumble this ideal will allow Netanyahu to crumble the peace process without being condemned as being anti-peace. Congress and a large part of the American public, still with a strong awareness of the Holocaust and the full burden associated with it, will support him. Kerry did not understand that.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on March 17, 2014

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014

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