As the talks begin, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s condition that Israel be recognized by any other country as a Jewish State is not easy to understand.
How many countries which already do recognize Israel, meet PM Netanyahu’s recent and comparatively brand-new demand that it can only be recognized as a Jewish State?
Has any Israeli government itself ever demanded this? No. Not at all.
Was this demand made or met in any Israeli recognition treaties with any other country on the face of the earth?
So the suspicion is inevitable that Netanyahu has deliberately thrown up a new obstacle to peace– that he has suddenly upped the ante with new and unprecedented demands because he doesn’t want it badly enough and isn’t serious enough about it.
Or doesn’t particularly much want peace because no terms he can imagine are conceivably attractive to him.
Is the religious character of any country on earth part of any recognition of any other country on earth?
Or at the very least, any Western-type of country? The Israeli-Jordanian recognition treaty says only that the two countries exist in “harmony” and “recognize and respect each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence.”
It would be an unprecedented condition in the world’s bilateral recognitions between nations, which involve such staples as their legitimacy, sovereignty, territorial inviolability, and peaceful relations. From the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the key text of Israel’s and Jordan’s mutual agreement of recognition:
The Parties will apply between them the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law governing relations among states in times of peace. In particular:
They recognise and will respect each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence;
They recognise and will respect each other’s right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries;
They will develop good neighbourly relations of co-operation between them to ensure lasting security, will refrain from the threat or use of force against each other and will settle all disputes between them by peaceful means;
They respect and recognise the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the region;
They respect and recognise the pivotal role of human development and dignity in regional and bilateral relationships;
They further believe that within their control, involuntary movements of persons in such a way as to adversely prejudice the security of either Party should not be permitted.”
There is nothing here about the religious self-identification of either Israel or Jordan.
In the same way, The United States never included the Communism of the Soviet Union or China in their recognitions of those countries. Just the same sovereignty and political independence and territorial integrity.
And in the same way, Western countries don’t include Muslim nations’ Islamic character in their recognitions.
The point isn’t that Israel is not a Jewish in character.
Or that Saudi Arabia is not Islamic in character.
Or that the Vatican City State not Catholic in character.
It is rather that recognition of a state’s sovereignty and political independence is what is essential and what is the norm and what universally suffices.
And that each state then uses this sovereignty and political independence in order to define itself however it wants to: That the recognition of a country’s sovereignty and political independence is precisely what entails its right –and enables it — to identify itself as it likes.
This is also why Israel has before never made the unprecedented requirement that this be a condition of recognition of it— neither the Israeli governments of Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak
Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin, or Ariel Sharon, or any other has ever made it a condition of Israel being recognized.
Any more than any other state has made what is distinctive about it a condition for the recognition of it. What is distinctive about it is up to itself to decide, and not the business of other countries who are always asked simply to recognize, mutually and bilaterally, each other’s legitimacy and sovereignty and territorial inviolability.
So several years ago Netanyahu upped the ante to a demand which is unique and unprecedented in the world:
And this novelty seems to have become, for part of the Israeli public, “the new normal,” where denials meet with indignation, when no one has explained the actual unprecedentedness and very abnormality of it.
Moreover, Israel never made this requirement before for recognitions from any country.
And this makes it worrisome how serious Prime Minister Netanyahu is interested in peace. Or again—is he going say that every country’s previous and longstanding and ongoing recognition of Israel is no longer good enough and no longer suffices? Is he going to cut off Israel’s relations with all the world’s nations that now recognize it (from the United States to Australia to India to Jordan) until this new condition is put in and suddenly met?
This new and unprecedented “upping of the ante” – both as an international abnormality and an abnormality in Israel’s own diplomatic history — increases the worry that Prime Minister Netanyahu has just thrown up a new obstacle in the way of peace and so is not especially serious about it.