Earlier this week, Israel said it would agree to expand its moratorium on building in settlements if the PA would recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The offer was quickly hooted down as “racist” by the PA, raising this question: Why would Israel even bother to negotiate with an outfit that has a problem recognizing Israel as what it is at its core?
But now there is, perhaps, an equally pressing question: Why would Israel accept as an intermediary in its relations with the PA a U.S. administration that is reluctant to recognizie Israel as a Jewish state? The question arises from this exchange between administration spokesman P.J. Crowley and members of the press, as reported by Rick Richman:
QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?
MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I — it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. . . .
QUESTION: And do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
MR. CROWLEY: We recognize the aspiration of the people of Israel. It has — it’s a democracy. In that democracy, there’s a guarantee of freedom and liberties to all of its citizens. But as the Secretary has said, we understand that — the special character of the state of Israel.
QUESTION: Is that a yes or no?
QUESTION: P.J., it’s — do you want to answer his question or -
QUESTION: Did you say yes or no to that question from Michel?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: Michel’s question was a yes or no sort of question. I was wondering whether that was a yes or no.
MR. CROWLEY: We recognize that Israel is a – as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes.
As to the other part of the original question — whether the administration will attempt to persuade the PA to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the exchange continued as follows:
QUESTION: … Does the U.S. want the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
MR. CROWLEY: Look, I will be happy to go back over and offer some — I’m trying — I’m not making any news here. We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well. But this is the aspiration of the — what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday is, in essence, the — a core demand of the Israeli Government, which we support, is a recognition that Israel is a part of the region, acceptance by the region of the existence of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and that is what they want to see through this negotiation. We understand this aspiration and the prime minister was talking yesterday about the fact that just as they aspire to a state for the Jewish people in the Middle East, they understand the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.
A 2004 letter from President Bush stated that the U.S. is “strongly committed to … [Israel] as a Jewish state.” Yet, as Richman points out, “this administration has to be prodded six times to answer whether it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and — after an affirmative response is extracted — cannot give a one-word answer on whether it wants the Palestinians to recognize one as well.”
The idea that the Obama administration has Israel’s core interests at heart as it attempts to broker a deal between Israel and the PA is laughable and, I assume, viewed as such by the Israeli government, however much it may try to humor the current American president.