PM Netanyahu Ups the Ante with New Obstacles to Peace

Netanyahu continues to flay international consensus in order to obstruct peace.

First he makes a new and unprecedented demand – in Israel’s history – too – that recognition of Israel requires recognition that it is in the official eyes of foreigners, too, a Jewish State.

Second, The Times of Israel has reported that he has shredded the basic Clinton-Bush parameters, held in common with Israel, the Palestinians, and The Quartet and EU, that Israel would keep large adjacent settlements but other settlements be withdrawn to Israel.


Israel has insisted on the importance and validity — even though it has no legal standing– of President George W, Bush’s famous letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of April 14, 2004. Bush wrote to Sharon:

“The United States remains hopeful and determined to find a way forward toward a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. I remain committed to my June 24, 2002 vision of two states living side by side in peace and security.”


Israel will “withdraw certain military installations and settlements in the West Bank.”

Israel has always sought reassurance from the US that it would abide by this letter.  It is of fundamental importance and has been one of the perennial mainstays of the Israeli Right.

And now Netanyahu is shredding it.  Who is doing this to the peace?

And then…

A new demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State.

This, in addition to the normal self-recognition any nation can make about whatever wants to call itself.

It can call itself Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, secular, atheist, Communist, Socialist, Soviet, People’s Republic, Christian, Lutheran, Protestant, Catholic, Anglican, Monarchical, or whatever it wants.

The right to “self-characterize” is part of a state’s sovereignty—but not the right to impose self-characterizations on foreign states. Rather, what countries recognize in foreign states is their sovereignty, inviolable borders, and so on.

For example, the heart of the Israeli-Jordanian mutual recognition:

“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–”

And that is – basically – it.  Nothing more. And seemingly quite sufficient. And the world’s diplomatic norm on bilateral recognitions.

No country has ever demanded that its own self-characterization be submissively and humiliatingly and abjectly be part another country’s characterization of the country it recognizes.

That a country demand that another country’s recognition of its *own* self-characterization must be a necessary condition  – and this is what is so unbelievable – for even that other country’s right to be *itself* a state.

But this is what Netanyahu is saying:

“Not only must you recognize us in the way that we characterize ourselves, but also I have the power and will use it so as not let you become a state unless you do.”

It is nearly impossible to imagine the amount of conceit and arrogance here—the arrogance and hubris of the demand for another people’s submission, abjectness, indignity, strippedness, humiliation. 

Even more extraordinarily: This is unprecedented just as much for Israel itself and all past Israeli governments and Prime Ministers.

Netanyahu is the first. But he pretends it is the status quo.

I have already written on this in The Times of Israel at

But it has still been asked me: Regardless of the injustice and arbitrariness, why are the Palestinians reluctant to make such recognition if it delays a peace accord?

I’ve basically said it here:  They have to wonder why they want to be singled out, after a stateless century, for still further singled-out humiliation.

Let’s go into this:

The “Jewish State” diktat would make the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish State even if it took over so much of Palestine that they became the majority.

So it wipes away the demographic issue of expansionism by fiat, by forcing the Palestinians to say that the expansionism and demographic problem makes no difference to them because, to them, Israel would have to be recognized as a Jewish State anyway.

Why would –regardless of demographics– the Palestinians want to submit to this recognition and (in essence) be forced to adopt the Zionist narrative and become Zionists themselves?

The League of Nations Covenant that created, authorized, and governed the idea and system of Mandates, made them in order to give impending independence to the “inhabitants” of the former colonial and imperial bits and pieces of the world.

The text of the League’s Covenant’s Article 22 on Mandates begins:

“To those colonies and territories which … have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, … there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilization …. The best method… is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations.”

The Palestinians were ~90-95% of the “inhabitants” of their piece.

To the Palestinians, the Mandate given to them and their land uniquely violated and contradicted the League Covenant by uniquely failing to set these inhabitants — alone — on their way to decolonization.

To them: It is the mother of illegalities and double-standards in the century-old history of this conflict.

To them: It is a double-standard uniquely in legal violation of the words and promises of the League Covenant, Section 22, on Mandates.

To them: This particular Mandate’s former colony’s inhabitants were uniquely not tracked to be decolonized and freed as were every single one of the League’s other former colonies’ inhabitants.

So that after the Palestinian’s whole century of feeling cheated and uniquely victimized, Netanyahu’s new – not traditional Israeli — diktat would only all the more rub their nose in it–according to their narrative.

That is,in addition to already feeling uniquely cheated, they would feel uniquely compelled to make a kind of recognition no other country has ever had to make.

So: How do we go forward? Move ahead? Make peace? Look to the future? Go beyond the contradictory narratives?

There is a way:

Simply to make the recognition in the normal and universal way.

In this way the Palestinians preserve their own historical narrative and Israel preserves its own historical narrative.

And which is also the international norm.

And as I asked in my earlier blog on this, the defeated and humiliated Palestinians ask:

Why is Netanyahu the only Israeli PM who has ever made this demand?

That the Palestinians must grovel – uniquely grovel — to get their state?

Usually countries recognize each other’s sovereignty, including political independence, territorial integrity and inviolability, and right to live in peace and a neighborliness and with good economic and political and cultural ties.

Again: this is the way that Israel recognizes Jordan and Jordan recognizes Israel.

Again: This is the international norm.  This is the way all countries recognize each other.

This cuts the Gordian knot of competing narratives.

This avoids the otherwise difficult and almost impossible problem of addressing them.

This way avoids them. This cuts the Gordian knot in a way that is worthy of King Solomon himself.

It is similar in creativity to the classic Solomonic Biblical judgment.

It is a classic Solomonic solution.

Not only a Solomonic solution, but also – already –  the international norm.

The international norm for Israel also — throughout its own modern diplomatic history.

And then suddenly a few years ago in a bolt from the blue Netanyahu demands a shredding and flaying of this Solomonic wisdom about this creative compromise diplomatic solutions about competing narratives.

Demands the shredding of this universal diplomatic norm.

Of the universal Solomonic norm that that saves both sides’ narratives.

Netanyahu’s new demand makes them grovel by signing a unique recognition in all the world of the kind that no other country in the world has ever made any other country–  including any other country made in all their recognitions of Israel..

So that unlike Portugal or Greece or Turkey or the United States or Russia or Egypt or Jordan or Canada or Australia –who didn’t have to go outside international norms to make a recognition in this unique way — the Palestinians uniquely would.

And also: Unlike Portugal or Greece or Turkey or the United States or Russia or Egypt or Jordan or Canada or Australia — who didn’t have to go outside international norms to make a recognition in this unique way, the Palestinians uniquely would—

 –even in order for the Palestinians to be able to become a state themselves.

Imagine Portugal or Greece or Turkey or the United States or Russia or Egypt or Jordan or Canada or Australia having to recognize Israel this way—

 –even simply in order for Jordan, Greece, Russia, and so on, to become a state themselves.

This is again part (as I understand it) of the basic Palestinian narrative:

That in a series of unique victimhoods — according to their narrative — going back a hundred years to the League of Nations, and the Palestinians in their narrative victimized by a violation of its Covenant on Mandates, became the one exception to decolonization.

And now it is demanded of them to deny their own narrative and make a recognition that no other nation has had to make.

And again what Israel did not demand Sadat or King Hussein to do, as Israel has itself always conformed to this Solomonic international norm. But the hapless Palestinians, in their minds,  get once  singled-out as the victim of another double-standard and exception.

Already after a century – in their narrative — of blow after blow of humiliation and loss.

Why would they to swallow this further bitter pill so at odds with their own narrative?

When the international norm in all such cases face-savingly allows all narratives.

This is the answer to the question put to me about why the Palestinians, don’t, anyway, make the recognition if it eases the peace process and road to statehood. The humiliation is just too great.

So the question may be reversed: Why does Netanyahu *newly* insist?

Menachem Begin didn’t demand this unique form of recognition.

As, again, neither has any Israeli government or Prime Minister

Until now.

Why go against the universal Solomonic norm?

In fact, again, why does Netanyahu apparently get to be the one to have the power to decide even whether Palestine becomes a state?

And if the world is going to give this power to him why doesn’t he act generously with it, rather than use this unprecedented power over another people to single them out yet again over this century?

Where is his moral generosity? Where is his visionary and moral and generous and Isaiatic inclination to beat swords into ploughshares?

Why does Netanyahu seem to want so badly to gut and destroy the opportunity to end this long and tragic and heart-breaking conflict?

About the Author
James Adler was born in Kentucky, now works in university libraries, and feels especially and intensely bound up with the fate of the Jewish people in the last hundred years, especially the Shoah, the rise of Israel "out of the ashes," and the accidental and mutually tragic collision with the Palestinians in the early and middle of the 20th century, continuing through today. He is happily married and the father of two teenagers.