John Kerry & the Jewish State

John Kerry fustrated by Palestinians’ refusal
to recognise ‘Jewish’ Israel
By  Robert Tait, The Telegraph,  05 Jan 2014


Netanyahu: “We are not foreigners in Jerusalem, Beit El [a West Bank settlement] or Hebron.”

Demands that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state have become a major stumbling block in John Kerry’s search for a settlement to the Middle East’s most enduring conflict.
As the US secretary of state continued a frantic diplomatic quest on Sunday that some have dubbed “mission impossible”, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said Palestinians’ refusal to formally acknowledge the country’s Jewish character had become the key topic in his discussions with Mr Kerry.

Palestinian officials admitted that Mr Kerry has pressed the issue with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, who has so far refused to bend.
“The Americans have made it very clear that [recognition of Israel as a Jewish state] is their position,” one Palestinian official told The Daily Telegraph.
“They talk about it in meetings with our side and make an issue out of it. We have made it very clear that we are not going to sign any agreement that recognises Israel as a Jewish state.” The Palestinian leader believes the rights of Israel’s approximately 1.5 million Arab citizens would be undermined if he concedes the point. It would also weaken the claims of around 5 million refugees and their descendants claiming a “right of return” to homes that are now in Israel, Palestinians argue.
Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, officially recognised Israel before signing the Oslo accords in1993 in a letter to Yitzhak Rabin, the then Israeli prime minister, but did not mention its status as a Jewish state.

Mr Netanyahu – who was reported to have launched an angry tirade cf complaints to Mr Kerry when the pair met last Thursday – linked the issue to what he said was a campaign of Palestinian incitement against Israel.
The Palestinians are continuing their campaign of inciting hatred, as we have seen in the last few days with their refusal to recognise Israel as a state for the Jewish people,” he told Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
“This is the main issue that we’re discussing with [Mr Kerry]. We are not foreigners in Jerusalem, Beit El [a West Bank settlement] or Hebron. I reiterate that, in my view, this is the root of both the conflict and the incitement – the non-recognition of this basic fact.”

Analysis: On the ‘Jewish State of Israel’
By John V. Whitbeck, Ma’an News 3-1-2014

News reports continue to suggest that one of the primary roadblocks to any agreement in the current round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is the understandable Palestinian refusal to accept the Israeli demand that Palestine explicitly recognize Israel as a or the “Jewish State”. This is a legally and intellectually bizarre demand clearly intended to make any agreement impossible while facilitating Israel’s post-failure public relations campaign to assign to the occupied Palestinians responsibility for Israel’s latest success in producing failure.

Palestinian acceptance of this Israeli demand would constitute explicit Palestinian acquiescence in permanent second-class status for Palestinian citizens of Israel and in the liquidation of the rights of millions of Palestinian refugees, as well as implicit Palestinian acceptance that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was morally justified, which in turn would require conceding that Palestinians are sub-humans not entitled to fundamental human rights.
No Palestinian leadership could accept this demand and survive. Israelis know that. That is why the demand is being made.

The State of Palestine could and should reiterate that Israel’s self-identification is a matter for Israelis (not Palestinians) to decide and then publicly announce that…  All states are free to determine and embellish their “official names” as they please…
If formalizing the status of Israel as a “Jewish State” were a genuine concern of the Israeli government or a deeply felt need of the Israeli people, and not simply a cynical gambit to achieve and excuse failure in negotiations, and if the Israeli government wished to proclaim this status officially to the world, the road is open and nothing is stopping Israel from achieving this on its own. …
If the Israeli government does not dare to proclaim its state officially “Jewish”, how can it demand that those whose country has been conquered and colonized, and whose people have been dispossessed and dispersed, to make the State of Israel possible do so on its behalf?

John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.


Democracy: definition

U.S. president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) defined democracy as:  «Government of the people, by the people, for the people»
Democracy is by far the most challenging form of government – both for politicians and for the people. The term democracy comes from the Greek language and means “rule by the (simple) people”. The theory  of modern democracy was not formulated until the Age of Enlightment (17th/18th centuries), when philosophers defined the essential elements of democracy: separation of powers, basic civil rights / human rights, religious liberty and separation of church and state.

Often democracy is defined opposite to other types of government:

–  Monarchy: Government by a single ruler (king/queen, emperor)
–  Aristocracy: Government by noblemen (hereditary)
–  Oligarchy: Government by few persons
–  Theocracy: “Government by God” (in reality this means government by religious leaders)
–  Dictatorship: Government by people, that have seized power by force (often: military dictatorship) (source: democray-building)


The Israel Democracy Index 2013 Jewish?
Democratic? Jewish and Democratic?

Israel’s Dual Identity – A sizeable majority of Jews (74.8%) believe that the State of Israel can be both Jewish and democratic. Only a third of Arab respondents share this view.

Jewish or Democratic? – Roughly one-third (32.3% ) of the Jewish respondents think the Jewish component of Israel’s definition as a Jewish and democratic state is more important, while 29.2% attach greater importance to the democratic component. The percentage of respondents who prefer the combined definition “Jewish and democratic” has declined steadily in recent years, reaching 37% this year.
Halakha vs. Democracy? – The share of Jewish respondents who would choose democratic principles over Jewish religious law (halakha) in the event of conflict between the two (42.7%) clearly outstrips those who would favor Jewish law in such a situation (28.2%). (Israel Democracy Institute)


Netanyahu first has to define “Jewish.”
By Juan Cole | Jan. 6, 2014

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is adding a fifth demand to his negotiations with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas: That the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” For Netanyahu’s demand to make any sense, he first has to define “Jewish.”
“Jewish” has a number of possible meanings. It can mean “those recognized by Talmudic law as members of the Jewish ‘race’ via maternal descent.” The latter is the legal definition of Jewishness in Israeli law itself, and for this reason we must presume that it is what Netanyahu has in mind…


Who is a Jew?

If a Jew need not live in Israel, need not speak Hebrew, need not be committed to formal communal relations with other Jews, need not believe in the God of Israel and His Torah, and does not necessarily have to be the child of a Jewish mother, who then, is a Jew?

According to Jewish law, a child born to a Jewish mother or an adult who has converted to Judaism is considered a Jew; one does not have to reaffirm their Jewishness or practice any of the laws of the Torah to be Jewish.
According to Reform Judaism, a person is a Jew if they were born to either a Jewish mother or a Jewish father. Also, Reform Judaism stresses the importance of being raised Jewish; if a child is born to Jewish parents and was not raised Jewish then the child is not considered Jewish. 
According to the Orthodox movement, the father’s religion and whether the person practices is immaterial. No affirmation or upbringing is needed, as long as the mother was Jewish. (jewish virtual library)

It is important to note that being a Jew has nothing to do with what you believe or what you do.
A person born to non-Jewish parents who has not undergone the formal process of conversion but who believes everything that Orthodox Jews believe and observes every law and custom of Judaism is still a non-Jew, even in the eyes of the most liberal movements of Judaism, and a person born to a Jewish mother who is an atheist and never practices the Jewish religion is still a Jew, even in the eyes of the ultra-Orthodox.
In this sense, Judaism is more like a nationality than like other religions…
This has been established since the earliest days of Judaism. In the Torah, you will see many references to “the strangers who dwell among you” or “righteous proselytes” or “righteous strangers.” These are various classifications of non-Jews who lived among Jews, adopting some or all of the beliefs and practices of Judaism without going through the formal process of conversion and becoming Jews. Once a person has converted to Judaism, he is not referred to by any special term; he is as much a Jew as anyone born Jewish.  (judaism 101)


The Torah is the absolute truth

Historically, Judaism has held that a Jew is anyone born to a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism in a halakhic manner (that is, according to Jewish law).
A halakhic conversion usually means that one is converting out of personal conviction — he or she believes the Torah to be the absolute truth — and has studied Jewish laws and traditions. (source)


A person born to a Jewish mother who is an atheist
and never practices the Jewish religion is also a Jew…!


Juan Cole:  Sec. Kerry should simply slap Netanyahu down over this new demand, which is illogical and unreasonable and above all sinister.

If Netanyahu won’t accept a two-state solution, then he or his children or grandchildren will likely have to accept a one-state solution. Kerry is trying to do him a favor, and if someone doesn’t want your favor, you don’t humiliate yourself to deliver it.



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