Recently, United States’ Secretary of State John Kerry called Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government’s insistence on Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as an imperative in any peace deal a “mistake.” Here Mr. Kerry is wrong. It is impossible for Israel to be recognized as anything but a Jewish state since the Jewish nature is so central.
The point of having our Jewish state is so that the world will recognize it. If Mr. Abbas says we Palestinians have our own exclusively Arab state and you Israelis have your non-religious state, what is to stop him from encouraging Palestinian right of return immigration (which is so central in his demands) to make Israel a bi-national state? If that happens, we have the same situation as a one-state solution now except then we will have rockets raining down on us from Bethlehem as well as we won’t be able to access our holy sites in Judea and Samaria.
The moral case for recognition is even stronger. It sounds cliché now, but the truth is over the past two thousand years, Jews have been scattered from their home and persecuted by their host countries. Today, we have a place where any Jew can come and not be afraid of a pogrom or of losing their job just because of their Judaism. If the Palestinians destroy the Jewishness of the state they are denying the People of Abraham, a People out of whom all of monotheism emerged, the same right that the two other major monotheistic religions own.
Some claim that Israel as an officially Jewish state is unprecedented or unfair. This is not true at all. Many western democratic nations have state sponsored religion; among them are England, Argentina, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. In every single one of these countries, all people are free to practice their religions regardless of the state sponsored one. This is not even to mention the Arab states which not only sponsor Islam but persecute those who practice different faiths. If the Palestinians do not recognize Israel then they shouldn’t recognize England, Argentina, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, or the majority of the Arab League.
There is even benefit for the Palestinians of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. Israel would be wrong to accept any Palestinian diplomats of send any Israeli diplomats if the Palestinians do not recognize Israel for what it is: the Jewish state. If there are no diplomatic ties between the two countries, every issue will have to go through proxy governments costing millions of dollars and hundreds of personal favors. These qualms will vary from mundane like a few houses have a problem to vital like water shortages. If the Palestinians give the Jewish state the respect it deserves, Israel could be a strong ally to the young Palestinian state. Israel would teach the Palestinians how to grow their country, with no natural resources, into a thriving state in the shortest amount of time. After all, Israelis are the professionals at that.
In the main operative clause of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, Ben Gurion and the other signatories proclaim a medinat yehudit b’eretz yisrael, a Jewish state in the land of Israel. The founders did not say medinat l’yehudim, a state for Jews. They attached the Jewish character of the state to the state itself rather than to its inhabitants. Neither Mr. Kerry, nor Mr. Abbas, nor Mr. Netanyahu, nor Mr. Obama has the right to remove the Jewishness from the State of Israel. Nor do they have the ability to do so; Israel is Jewish down to its very core. The language is the same language as the Torah. The capital has been the capital of the Jewish people for the past three thousand years. Jews have returned to the cradle of their religion. We cannot remove Judaism from the state and land of Israel because that is what they are, a Jewish state on Jewish land.