Hard Truths About Recognition & Narratives


Some Hard Truths about Recognition & Narratives

  • The demand that the Palestinians not only recognize Israel - something they have done repeatedly, starting in 1993 - but that they recognize Israel as “a Jewish state,” or some similar wording, is relatively new. No such demand was made of Egypt or Jordan, nor was it mentioned in the Oslo agreement or subsequent Israeli-Palestinian documents. It made a brief appearance in the Annapolis talks of 2007, but only as a marginal issue. Only in 2009 did it truly come into play, courtesy of Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • Netanyahu’s decision to introduce the issue into the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating dynamic seemed to be a cynical one.  Facing a U.S. president determined to forge ahead with peace and a Palestinian president who embraced the two-state solution, rejected violence, and was actively cooperating to fight terrorism, Netanyahu was left scrambling for a pretext to argue that Israel had no Palestinian partner for peace, as cover for his own anti-peace, pro-settlement policies. Thus was born the “recognition-plus” demand, which today is accepted by many Israelis and supporters of Israel as a condition for any peace agreement, and even as a precondition for continuing to sit at the negotiating table with the Palestinians.
  • While the introduction of the “recognition-plus” demand into the political debate was cynical, the demand has nonetheless resonated deeply with many Israelis and supporters of Israel – including many who support peace and the two-state solution and who are not seeking a pretext to avoid or derail negotiations.   
  • It resonates, at least in part, because it taps into two popular Israeli sentiments that relate to peace with their neighbors. One is desire to see the Jewish-Zionist narrative embraced – the longing of Israelis to not simply be tolerated in the Middle East, but to be accepted as a legitimate, indigenous nation, consistent with Israel’s founding narrative of the return of the Jews to their historic homeland. The other is the Israeli anxiety that even after a peace agreement, Palestinians will not be content with a state in the West Bank and Gaza, but will continue fighting to “liberate” all of Palestine, believing that it belongs to them and not Israel.
  • For Palestinians, rejection of the demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state (or some similar formula) is a function of their own historical and political narrative. According to this narrative, Palestinians are an indigenous people living for generations in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, unjustly expelled or occupied as the result of the creation of Israel and subsequent disastrous wars.
  • Israeli insistence that the Palestinians adopt an Israeli-dictated formula of “the Jewish state of Israel” or similar wording is understood by many Palestinians as requiring them to in effect renounce their national narrative and repudiate their own history, suffering, and grievances. It is viewed as asking them to recognize, in essence, prior Jewish claims that erase their own, both in terms of lands lost and as refugees.
  • Moreover, this demand is seen by many – on both sides of the Green Line – as requiring Palestinian President Abbas to “sell out” the more than one million Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, sabotaging their own efforts to play an effective role in influencing the future character of the state of Israel and break down the barriers to equality inside Israel.
  • The demand for “recognition-plus” and its rejection thus go to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They embody the shared desire of Israelis and Palestinians for self-determination in their own countries, and for acknowledgment of their core narratives.  Recognizing what this argument is really about opens the door for Israelis and Palestinians to start grappling with the challenge of finding a recognition formula that addresses the needs, and respects the sensitivities, of both sides. 
  • Such a formula will require not just recognition of the fact of Israel’s existence, but some element of recognition of Israel as a home for the Jewish people in their historic homeland, alongside explicit recognition of the rights of non-Jewish citizens of Israel.
  • On the flip side, such a formula will require not just grudging acceptance of a Palestinian state as the outcome of negotiations, but some element of recognition of the suffering and sacrifices that Israel’s creation and 46 years of occupation have wrought on the Palestinian people.
  • Israeli and Palestinian leaders, negotiating in good faith to achieve a two-state solution, can certainly agree on a recognition formula – as was done by negotiators in the 2003 Geneva Initiative, which affirmed that the agreement marked, “the recognition of the right of the Jewish people to statehood and the recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to statehood, without prejudice to the equal rights of the Parties' respective citizens.
  •   Conversely, if Israel and Palestinian leaders don’t start dealing with this question seriously – respectful of the nuances and sensitivities involved for both sides – then the recognition question will haunt us all, and ensure that an agreement is likely never reached.


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Hard Truths About Hatred and Incitement


Some Hard Truths about Incitement & Hatred

  • Hatred, incitement, and racism are all serious obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace. Combating this must be an important element of U.S. relations and policy in the Middle East and around the world. All sides must work to contain and eliminate them.
  • A tenet of democracy is that discrimination and incitement against any people based on their religion or ethnicity is unacceptable.  Political grievances, claims of historical injustices, or ideological disagreements never justify incitement to hatred or violence, or discrimination.
  • Incitement against Israel and Jews is a serious problem that can’t be ignored, particularly in light of the Jewish people's history. In Israel's short history, it has seen more than its share of hatred and violence. It has seen wars and terrorism, and faced people insisting that Israel has no right to exist or should be destroyed.  Anti-Semitism and incitement against Israel exists among Palestinians and in the Arab world, and often taints legitimate criticism of Israeli policies.  While some amount of anti-Semitism of anti-Israel incitement would certainly continue to exist even if there were peace, the flames of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel incitement are today fanned by images of violence and injustice that are part and parcel of the occupation. 
  • Incitement and hatred go both ways, and both anti-Arab and anti-Muslim incitement must also be rejected.  Friends of Israel tend to focus on Arab inflammatory rhetoric, but there is no shortage of inciting rhetoric on the Israeli side as well. This is in addition to Israeli policies toward the Palestinians that the Arab world (and many others) views as discriminatory, racist, or unjust.  The “price tag” phenomenon, involving attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property – and increasingly spreading inside the Green Line, with attacks against Arab, Muslim, and Christian targets inside Israel – is an example of incitement and hatred transformed into concrete actions.  The failure of Israeli authorities to effectively deal with the “price tag” phenomenon – taking strong action only when the targets of attacks are the Israeli military – sends a signal that such “price tag” actions are tolerable, if not acceptable.
  • Continuing the status quo of Israeli occupation only deepens Palestinian and Arab resentment, while feeding Israeli demonization of the Palestinians. The implementation of a two-state solution will mean a reduction in friction and, over time, decline in enmity. Without peace, we can expect violence to continue, feeding anti-Israel sentiment far beyond Israel's neighborhood.  Peace can provide security and stability to both Israelis and Arabs; in doing so, it is the only serious path to changing negative attitudes and perceptions on both sides.
  • Many who argue that peace is impossible due to implacable Arab hatred also reject Israel taking the steps necessary to achieve a two-state solution, namely, ceding most of the West Bank and East Jerusalem so that it, along with Gaza, can become a Palestinian state. Making the total elimination of hatred and incitement a condition for peace negotiations is a prescription for making things worse, not better. Anyone who cares about fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Israel incitement should be fighting to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. Moreover, anyone who cares about Israel's future will refuse to hand anti-Semites veto power over a peace agreement.
  • Peace is possible even if the parties to a peace agreement still harbor prejudice and hatred toward each other.  Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments held by many Egyptians and Jordanians – and anti-Arab sentiments held by many Israelis – have not prevented durable peace agreements from taking hold. 
  • Similarly, an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement can deliver huge benefits for Israel. It can help Israel better defend itself and normalize its presence in the Middle East. It can also dramatically improve Israel's standing internationally and pave the way for broader peace between Israel and the Arab world.
  • Yes, many in the Arab and Muslim worlds hate Israel, hate Jews, and want to see the Jewish state disappear. Yet, Palestinian leaders have repeatedly recognized Israel, expressed readiness to live side-by-side in peace, and committed themselves to non-violent means. There are signs that the Arab world is ready to accept Israel, including the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, offering Israel full peace and normal relations with all of the Arab states if Israel will first embrace a realistic two-state solution to its conflict with the Palestinians.
  • A peace treaty cannot instantly erase Arab and Palestinian anti-Semitism or hatred of Israel.  It cannot erase either the deep-seated Israeli suspicion of Palestinians and Arabs or the often racist attitudes Israelis hold towards them. Decades of anger, fear, and hatred will not disappear overnight. But it will be significantly easier for Israelis and Arabs - for Jews, Christians and Muslims - to overcome these challenges in the context of a peace agreement and normalized relations.
  • Peace with the Palestinians and the Arab world is an Israeli vital interest, and Israel cannot afford to wait for the day when its enemies first love it to seek peace. Peace is something you make with your enemies, not your friends.


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Hard Truths About Borders & Security

BOrders and Security

Some Hard Truths about Borders & Security

  • When considering the defensibility of future borders, it is critical to distinguish between legitimate concerns and the manipulation of these concerns for political and ideological purposes. Israel has legitimate security concerns related to its future borders. Misrepresenting facts or ignoring overarching Israeli national interests when discussing such concerns is often blatant manipulation, generally to advance an ideological "Greater Israel" agenda.
  • Future borders will be the result of negotiations, based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed-on land swaps. Nobody can force Israel to accept the 1967 lines as a permanent and official border between the West Bank and Israel (and nobody serious is trying to do so). Likewise, Israel cannot unilaterally dictate borders, whether through facts on the ground like settlement construction or the separation barrier, or through legislation. Efforts by Israel to do so will never be accepted by the Palestinians or viewed as legitimate by the international community.
  • While an Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank will involve some security risks, these risks in no way render borders in a future two-state agreement "indefensible," as opponents of such an agreement may suggest. The national security benefits for Israel of a peace agreement with the Palestinians – one that involves robust security arrangements and leaves Israel with universally recognized sovereign borders – far outweigh the risks.
  • Negotiations can produce a permanent border for Israel that meets its security needs. Israel will insist, with reason, on arrangements that satisfy its legitimate security needs – needs which Palestinian leaders have in the past indicated they recognize. Any peace agreement will require far-reaching verification measures and guarantees, and may involve both the parties to the treaty and third-party monitors and guarantors.
  • The IDF's presence in the West Bank provides some security benefits for Israel. However, it doesn't guarantee against the infiltration of terrorists and the smuggling of weapons into the West Bank, or terrorist attacks, either inside the West Bank or in Israel. It involves huge security sacrifices for Israel, including harming army morale and leaving Israel's forces unprepared to handle serious external security threats. It cannot prevent the growth of extremist ideology and hatred of Israel and may, in fact, contribute to both, with the continued military occupation undermining the credibility of those Palestinians who argue against violence and who support the idea of a negotiated, two-state, conflict-ending agreement with Israel.
  • The PA has demonstrated its ability to fight terrorism in the West Bank and to cooperate with Israel's security authorities, even with the West Bank still under occupation. U.S.-backed Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation over the past decade has shown strong results, with PA forces effectively establishing law and order - and taking action against extremists - in areas under their control. Indeed, Israeli officials have repeatedly expressed satisfaction with the effort. As part of a peace agreement, security cooperation would most likely go even further. Similarly, recognized borders established through durable peace agreements make for good neighbors with whom mutually-beneficial security cooperation can thrive – as Israel has seen with both Jordan and Egypt, even during times of crisis and upheaval.
  • It cannot be seriously argued today that Israel needs the West Bank as territorial depth or as a security buffer. Territorial depth - particularly when measured in single miles rather than in tens or hundreds of miles - is almost insignificant in an age of intermediate-range and long-range missiles. Holding on to the West Bank does not provide Israel additional meaningful strategic depth with respect to such a threat. Furthermore, by virtue of both topography and Israel’s superb military capabilities, it cannot be seriously argued that Israel needs the West Bank as a buffer to fend off an invasion by foreign armies from the east, through the West Bank.
  • A peace agreement would strengthen Israel's ability to deter and defend against terrorist attacks. Israel's ability to inflict pain militarily against those who threaten it – Hizballah and Hamas, for example – is unquestioned. Absent a peace agreement, Israel's right to do so is often challenged. With an end to the occupation and the establishment of universally recognized borders, Israel's right to use force to defend these borders and its sovereign territory from attack will no longer be open to challenge, rendering Israel's military deterrence exponentially stronger.
  • Israel should not repeat the mistake it made in Gaza by picking up and leaving the West Bank unilaterally. In the Gaza context, Israel's unilateral withdrawal - and implicit snub of President Abbas and the entire notion of negotiations - played into the hands of Hamas and other extremists. In contrast, a negotiated withdrawal – as part of a process that leads to the end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel – can provide credibility for non-extremist Palestinian leaders, strengthening them and enhancing their ability to govern, and to live up to Palestinian security obligations, after an Israeli withdrawal.
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Hard Truths About Jerusalem


Some Hard Truths about Jerusalem…

  • Jerusalem is of central importance to Israelis and Jews everywhere.  It is a city that throughout history has been the focal point of Jewish collective yearning and collective identity. The Jewish return to the Old City and its holy sites after 1967 was the fulfillment of this yearning. No one can deny or undermine the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is and will forever be the capital of Israel.
  • Jerusalem is also a city that has deep political, historical, economic, and cultural significance to Palestinians, and deep religious importance not only for Jews, but for Christians and Muslims everywhere.  
  • Jerusalem is already a divided city.  One-third of its population is Palestinian, in addition to large Palestinian urban areas lying just beyond the municipal border. The patterns of life in the city disclose two distinct populations - Israelis and Palestinians - living separate and rarely overlapping existences. 
  • Jerusalem must be re-fashioned as two capitals for two states.  No resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian or Israel-Arab conflicts is possible without compromise on Jerusalem.  Refusal to negotiate in good faith over the future of Jerusalem will mean the loss of the two-state solution.   Settlements in East Jerusalem are and have always been about only one thing: cementing Israel’s hold on the land in order to prevent the emergence of a Palestinian capital in the city. After 47 years, a two-state solution is still possible in Jerusalem, but barely. 
  • If political obstinacy and extremism are allowed to stand in the way of compromise, or if settlement-related developments continue and succeed in taking Jerusalem off the negotiating table, it will mean the end of the two-state solution.  Loss of the two-state solution directly threatens Israel’s viability as a democracy and a Jewish state.
  • The current borders of Jerusalem have no historical or religious meaning. Shortly after the 1967 War, Israel annexed large areas of land, including a number of Arab towns and villages, to expand Jerusalem. There is nothing sacred about these borders, either to Israel or to Jews.  The emergence of a Palestinian capital in Arab areas of Jerusalem, along with a special regime or special arrangements for the Old City and its surrounding area – would not undermine Israel's claim to Jerusalem as its capital. Rather, it would clear the way for international recognition of Jewish Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
  • For the sake of Israel's security and stability – and for the health and stability of this remarkable city – a formula must be found to share Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians, and between Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Pragmatic, creative solutions exist to satisfy competing claims to Jerusalem and its holy sites; what is needed is the leadership, courage, and goodwill to explore them.  Most of the proposed solutions for Jerusalem's future would put Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian control, while Jewish neighborhoods would remain under Israeli control. These arrangements would make Israel's capital a more Jewish city and would allow Israel to shed the burden of ruling over Palestinians, while guaranteeing Jewish access to holy sites.

Don't miss our briefing call with Jerusalem expert Danny Seidemann or with Daniel Seidemann and APN's Lara Friedman regarding the tension in Jerusalem in 2014.

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Hard Truths About Settlements


Some Hard Truths about Settlements…

  • Settlements are antithetical to peace. Continued settlement construction will destroy the very possibility of peace and leave Israeli decision-makers with an impossible choice: be a democracy and give full rights to the Palestinians, at the cost of Israel's Jewish character, or deny rights to the majority of the people under Israeli rule - which the Palestinians will soon be - validating accusations that Israel is increasingly an Apartheid-like state.
  • Settlements are, at every level, a liability for Israel. It is because of settlements that the route of Israel's "separation barrier" has been distorted, lengthening and contorting Israel's lines of defense. The settlers' presence in the West Bank places a heavy burden on the IDF, and a heavy economic, moral, and political burden on all Israelis.
  • It is because of settlements that Israel is forced to rule over a huge - and growing - non-Jewish, disenfranchised population, contrary to basic democratic values. Settlement policies and the actions of settlers erode Israel's image in the world as a democratic state that respects the civil rights of all people under its rule.
  • Settlement expansion understandably extinguishes hope among Palestinians that Israel is serious about peace. It destroys the credibility of Palestinian moderates - Israel's best partners for peace - who reject violence and tell their people that negotiations will deliver a viable state. After more than four decades of watching settlements grow to take up more and more land and damage the fabric of their lives, Palestinians view settlement construction today as a litmus test of Israeli seriousness about peace.
  • Past negotiations suggest that a peace deal is possible in which most settlers remain where they are, as part of a land-swap deal. Existing settlements already make such arrangements complicated; if settlements continue to expand, creating new facts on the ground in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, they will further complicate the situation and could render an agreement impossible. That, after all, is the goal of the settlements and of many of those who support them.

Listen to APN's briefing call with Lior Amichai, the director of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Project. Click here.

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Jerusalem on the U.S. Passport


"Our government's policy of refusing to formally recognize Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem is difficult for many of our fellow members of the American Jewish community to accept. But recording someone's birthplace as "Jerusalem" rather than "Israel" in no way threatens our religious, spiritual, and historical attachment and claims in the city. In our hearts, 'Yerushalayim shel Ma'lah - celestial Jerusalem - is and will forever be Israel's capital. However, 'Yerushalayim shel Matah - mundane Jerusalem of daily life on the ground - poses extremely delicate and volatile foreign policy and national security challenges. These challenges cannot be addressed through heavy-handed Congressional declarations or legislation, and they cannot be resolved by the courts. They can only be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and a peace agreement that delivers a two-state solution to the conflict."


6/8/15: APN Press Release -- Press Release: APN Welcomes Supreme Court Ruling on Jerusalem
7/25/13: APN Press Release -- APN Welcomes Court Decision on Jerusalem
11/7/11: APN Oped --  Why We Have Taken a Stand with the US Supreme Court  (Original Hebrew version here)
10/4/11: APN Press Release -- APN Files Amicus Brief Supporting Obama Administration on Jerusalem
10/4/11:  APN Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court of the United States of America -- full text)

Israeli-Palestinian Mutual Recognition

“By now everyone has realized that there’s a new issue on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations agenda that’s not going away: The demand that the Palestinians not only recognize Israel - something they have done repeatedly, starting in 1993 - but that they recognize Israel as "a Jewish state," or some similar wording. No such “recognition-plus” demand was made of Egypt or Jordan, nor was it mentioned in the Oslo agreement or subsequent Israeli-Palestinian documents. It made a brief appearance in the Annapolis talks of 2007, but only as a marginal issue. Only In 2009 did it truly come into play, courtesy of Benjamin Netanyahu...”



APN resources:

Lara Friedman, Haaretz, March 31, 2014: What Israeli Palestinian mutual recognition really means

Lara Friedman, APN Blog, April 19, 2009: The Demand for "Recognition-Plus" -- Bibi's New Pretext for Not Pursuing Peace


Other recommended reading:

Yitzhak Lior, Haaretz+. March 30, 2014: Abbas, don’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state

Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz+, March 26, 2014: A Jewish nation-state is for Israelis with identity anxiety

Amos Schoken, Haaretz+ March 24, 2014: The visible rejectionism of Ari Shavit

Peter Beinart, Haaretz+ March 19, 2014: Before Abbas recognizes the Jewish state, Israel must define it

Hussein Ibish, Haaretz+, March 13, 2014: How many times must the Palestinians recognize Israel?

Chemi Shalev, Haaretz+ March 12, 2014: Israelis: Peace with Arab world more important than recognition as Jewish state

Donniel Hartman, Times of Israel, March 11, 2014: A Jewish state: It’s our problem, not theirs

Hussein Ibish, NOW, March 11, 2014: The real impact of Israel's "Jewish state" demand

Reuters, March 5, 2014: 'Jewish state' recognition adds new Israeli-Palestinian trip wire

Matt Duss, Think Progress, March 5, 2014: Is Palestinian Recognition Of Israel As A ‘Jewish State’ An Insurmountable Obstacle?

Yoav Hendel, YNet, Feb. 17, 2014: When will Israel recognize the Jewish state?

Efraim Halevy (former head of the Mossad), YNet, Feb, 26, 2014: Israel, beware 'Jewish statehood' trap

Haaretz January 22, 2014: Peres: Palestinian recognition of Jewish state 'unnecessary'

Brent Sasley, Haaretz+, January 15, 2014: Israel needs borders, not therapy

Jodi Rudoren, New York Times, January 2, 2014: Sticking Point in Peace Talks: Recognition of a Jewish State

Haviv Rettig Gur, Times of Israel, October 7, 2013: The nature of peacemaking according to Netanyahu

Times of Israel, October 6, 2013: Netanyahu blames Mideast conflict on refusal to recognize Jewish state

Tal Becker, WINEP brief, February 2011: The Claim for Recognition of Israel as a Jewish State: A Reassessment

Hussein Ibish, Foreign Policy, May 25, 2011: Should the Palestinians Recognize Israel as a Jewish State?

The Geneva Accord, October, 2003: “Affirming that this agreement marks the recognition of the right of the Jewish people to statehood and the recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to statehood, without prejudice to the equal rights of the Parties' respective citizens”


The Settlementulator is a tool to demonstrate the economic burden that the settlements are for the Israeli tax-payer. It shows how how much public money the Israeli government wastes on perpetuating the settlement enterprise.