Abbas Publicly Refuses to Recognize Israel as a Jewish State

A central snag in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations has historically been Palestinian leadership’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. In 1988 after meeting with a group of American Jews representing Tel Aviv-based International Center for Peace in the Middle East in Sweden, Yasser Arafat, then Chairman of the PLO, recognizes Israel as a sovereign state, on the condition that an independent Palestinian state is formed. He also accepts United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338 and renounces terrorism.

The announcement comes a few weeks after Arafat declares Palestinian independence on November 15, 1988.  The declaration uses the 1947 UN Partition resolution as a basis for establishing an Independent Palestinian state, proclaiming that partition “still provides those conditions of international legitimacy that ensures the right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty and national independence.” However, neither the November 15 declaration nor Arafat’s December pronouncement of a willingness to recognize Israel’s right to exist, acknowledge the Jewish nature of the State of Israel.

In April 2009, newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, setting it as a precondition for peace negotiations. Abbas responds in a speech in Ramallah on April 27th, stating, “I do not accept it… It is not my job to give a description of the state. Name yourself the Hebrew Socialist Republic — it is none of my business.” Just two months later, in a speech at Bar-Ilan University, on June 14, 2009, Netanyahu reiterates his precondition that Palestinians not only accept Israel’s sovereignty, but its right to exist as a Jewish state.  The Prime Minister states “Achieving peace will require courage and candor from both sides, and not only from the Israeli side. 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.’

Despite President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s (2010 and 2013-14) attempts to restart a successful, direct-negotiation based peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, none of their efforts come to fruition. Until today, Abbas continues to refuse to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state.

The photo shows Netanyahu, Obama, and Abbas pictured together in 2009. Photo Source: John Angelillo