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Arafat and the Jewish State: Setting the Record Straight

Arafat and the Jewish State: Setting the Record Straight

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On March 13, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that he views Israel’s principled requirement of recognition as the nation state of the Jewish People “as a mistake.” He added that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat “confirmed that he agreed it [Israel] would be a Jewish state” in 1988 and in 2004.
However, the truth is just the opposite: the U.S. administration at the time did not believe that Arafat’s words satisfied their goal of his recognizing Israel’s right to exist. Moreover, Arafat’s 1988 statement does not come close to meeting the requirement for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People.
On March 13, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that he views Israel’s principled requirement of recognition as the nation state of the Jewish People “as a mistake.” He added that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat “confirmed that he agreed it [Israel] would be a Jewish state” in 1988 and in 2004.
However, the truth is just the opposite: the U.S. administration at the time did not believe that Arafat’s words satisfied their goal of his recognizing Israel’s right to exist. Moreover, Arafat’s 1988 statement does not come close to meeting the requirement for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People.

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Published by: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Mar 18, 2014
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Arafat and the Jewish State: Setting theArafat and The Jewish State: Setting the Record Straight 
Amb. Alan Baker 
,March 17, 2014
Vol. 14, No. 6 
 ▪ On March 13, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that he views Israel’s principled requirement of recognition as the nation state of the Jewish People “as a mistake.” He added that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat “confirmed that he agreed it [Israel] would be a Jewish state” in 1988 and in 2004.▪ However, the truth is just the opposite: the U.S. administration at the time did not believe that Arafat’s words satisfied their goal of his recognizing Israel’s right to exist. Moreover, Arafat’s 1988 statement does not come close to meeting the requirement for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People.▪ In the last quarter of 1988, an intense effort was undertaken to facilitate
 
the opening of a diplomatic dialogue between the PLO and the U.S. Previously, all U.S. administrations had strictly adhered to U.S. commitments, originally given by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, that required the PLO to recognize Israel, accept UN Security Council Resolution 242, and renounce terrorism as prerequisites for any dialogue between the parties.▪ Arafat did not issue a clear declaration recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, but only summarized the language of UN General Assembly Resolution 181. The U.S. government concluded that Arafat’s statement did not meet Washington’s demand that the PLO unequivocally recognize the State of Israel, and thus no dialogue was launched between the U.S. and the PLO at that time.▪ It was, in fact, current Israeli peace negotiator Justice Minister Tzipi Livni who insisted that “declared references must be made to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state” in Israel’s official response to the 30 April 2003 U.S. and Quartet-sponsored “Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”
Introduction
In his appearance before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on March 13, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry, convener, main proponent, and mediator of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process, found it necessary to make a surprisingly one-sided comment and prejudgment on one of the central and most delicate issues on the negotiating table – Israel’s basic and principled requirement of recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish People.Kerry opined that he views Israel’s position “as a mistake,” considering that the “Jewish State” issue was “sufficiently addressed by UN General  Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, which recommended the establishment of independent Arab and Jewish states in Palestine.”
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 He said there are “more than 30–40 mentions of a ‘Jewish state’” in the resolution, and added that the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat “confirmed that he agreed it [Israel] would be a Jewish state” in 1988 and
 
in 2004.It would appear that once again, as with previous one-sided and pre-judgmental statements, Secretary Kerry has either been ill-advised or is deliberately engaged in an effort to neutralize the “Jewish State” issue in the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He is doing so by attempting to determine that the question of Palestinian support for a Jewish state was already resolved by PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 1988, and is therefore redundant and unnecessary.In so doing, Secretary Kerry even cited a questionable quotation by Yasser Arafat himself from 7 December 1988 – in which the PLO Chairman says that “the PNC has accepted two states: a Palestine state and Jewish state – between brackets ‘Israel’” (sic).However, despite the willingness of Kerry and others to view this as retroactive evidence of Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state, the truth is just the opposite: the U.S. administration that then labored to persuade Arafat to meet the initial goal of recognizing Israel’s right to exist did not believe Arafat’s words at that time satisfied even this lesser demand.The 1988 statement of Yasser Arafat relied upon by Kerry does not come close to meeting the bar of the current requirement – of Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and many others within the international community – for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People.
The Historical Record
In the last quarter of 1988, an intense effort was undertaken by then Swedish Foreign Minister Sten Anderson to facilitate the opening of a diplomatic dialogue between the PLO and the United States. Previously, all U.S. administrations had strictly adhered to U.S. commitments, originally given by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Allon, that required the PLO to recognize Israel, accept UN Security

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