AJDS reaction to Netanyahu's speech

A lead letter published in the The Australian, 16 June 2009
THE US President’s recent speech in Cairo heralded a new beginning in relations between the US and the Muslim world, and signalled a re-engagement with finding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is, therefore, disappointing that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response has merely restated Israel’s position with a new precondition that the Palestinians must recognise Israel as a Jewish state.
People generally recognise that the millennia-long connection between Jews and the biblical land of Israel entitles modern Israel to be called the Jewish homeland. However, while it’s also correct to say that Judaism is the predominant religion in Israel, it is of some concern that Netanyahu’s requirement for Israel to be recognised as a Jewish state manages to gain three negatives and no positives. It relegates non-Jews in Israel to second-class status; it panders to a rather unpleasant nationalism in Israel; and manages a slap in the face to Palestinians.
This precondition, together with several others including the status of existing settlements, is at odds with the part of Netanyahu’s speech in which he said, “I call on you, our Palestinian neighbours, and to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority: let us begin peace negotiations immediately, without preconditions.”
Perhaps the following question is worth asking: Would a resolution of the conflict founder but for the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to recognise Israel as a Jewish state? And if not, why bother to even make such a precondition?
Harold Zwier, Larry Stillman and Helen Rosenbaum
On behalf of executive of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society
Elsternwick, Vic

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