An Israeli studies research centre has accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of shifting the goalposts every time it looks as if a peace agreement might be possible. The Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (Madar) pointed out that Netanyahu scuppers such agreements by claiming that recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” is non-negotiable and an essential requirement for a lasting peace.
A report issued by Madar has pointed out that, in fact, even before Israel’s establishment by Zionists in 1948 it was being described in some circles as a “Jewish state”. Reading the country’s “declaration of independence”, the first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, said, “We hereby proclaim the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine to be called Israel.”
Madar also noted that over the years the Knesset has passed laws stating that Israel is a Jewish state, including the so-called Law of Return which proclaims that any Jew in the world may migrate to Israel and claim Israeli citizenship as well as other privileges. Additionally, the Knesset also passed relevant Basic Laws that are considered to be part of Israel’s constitutional law. One Basic Law issued in 1985 states that Israel is a “Jewish and democratic state”. Another such law on Human Dignity and Liberty was issued in 1992. Nonetheless, Israel has seen a heated debate over whether the term Jewish state is consistent with democracy or contradicts it.
The Madar report stated that the term “Jewish state” has appeared in a number of Israeli documents and laws in the past decades and noted a statement made by the then-US president George W. Bush in 2003 during the Aqaba Summit: “Today, America is strongly committed… to Israel’s security as a vibrant Jewish state.” Despite all of this, Israel has not insisted on Palestinian recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” since talks started between the two sides more than 20 years ago; until today.