Any prospect of creating a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan took another nosedive recently with an extraordinary outburst by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak saying he could not accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish State.
In an interview with Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot on July 10 President Mubarak said Israel's request for Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state is unacceptable.
“Don’t you have Arab citizens in Israel?" Mubarak asks. "You want to turn Israel into a Jewish state only? That is very bad. I'm telling you. It's a serious mistake which will harm you. A Jewish state will become the target of all terrorists. An open state, on the other hand, is a different matter. Look at us in Egypt: We have Muslims, Christians, Copts and Jews,"
President Mubarak was being blatantly misleading in suggesting that the term “Jewish State” meant a state where only Jews and no one else can reside. Twenty per cent of Israel’s seven million population is Muslim Arab and there are more than 100,000 Christian Arabs living in Israel. Any suggestion that either group will lose its citizenship is nonsensical.
What the President conveniently forgot to mention was that 90 per cent of Egypt’s 80 million population is Muslim Arab, that only 9 per cent is Coptic Christian, a group which is massively discriminated against, and that there are no more than 500 Jews living in Egypt.
Like so many issues in the Middle East, words - and the meaning to be ascribed to them - are very important. None is more important at the present time than Israel itself defining what the words “Jewish State” means.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had made it clear on June 14 that any negotiations with the Palestinian Authority would fail unless the Authority was prepared to recognise Israel as the Jewish State when he stated unequivocally:
As we look toward the horizon, we must be firmly connected to reality, to the truth. And the simple truth is that the root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland.
The Palestinian leadership must arise and say: "Enough of this conflict. We recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in this land, and we are prepared to live beside you in true peace." I am yearning for that moment, for when Palestinian leaders say those words to our people and to their people, then a path will be opened to resolving all the problems between our peoples, no matter how complex they may be.
Therefore, a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
US President Barack Obama had welcomed Mr Netanyahu’s speech, calling it an important step forward. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs affirmed the following day that: "The president is committed to two states, a Jewish State of Israel and an independent Palestine, in the historic homeland of both peoples."
On July 12 Prime Minister Netanyahu again reiterated his position at a ceremony in Jerusalem commemorating 105 years since the death of Theodor Herzl: "The key to peace lies in explicit and unequivocal recognition of Israel as the Jewish state on the part of the Palestinians.”
The term “Jewish State” should be defined by Israel so that there is no doubt as to its meaning by anyone choosing to use those words.
No better definition exists than that given by David Ben Gurion to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine at Lake Success New York on July 7, 1947:
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