Analysis from Israel

Secretary of State John Kerry is still trying to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks, with another visit to the region expected “within days,” according to Jordan’s foreign minister. But nothing better illustrates the folly of this effort than last week’s comments by Israel’s ostensible “peace partner,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

At an event marking the 49th anniversary of the PLO’s founding, Abbas (according to a translation by the Palestinian news agency Ma’an) declared that PLO founder Ahmad Shuqueiri “was asked to figure out what the Palestinians wanted, and he returned with the convention for the PLO.” In other words, according to Abbas, the PLO’s founding document is an accurate reflection of what Palestinians want. And lest anyone has forgotten the contents of that 1964 document, still available on the website of the PLO’s UN mission, here are a few choice quotes:

  • “The partitioning of Palestine, which took place in 1947, and the establishment of Israel are illegal and null and void, regardless of the loss of time…” (Article 17)
  • “The claims of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine are not in agreement with the facts of history … Judaism, because it is a divine religion, is not a nationality with independent existence. Furthermore, the Jews are not one people with an independent personality…” (Article 18)
  • “Zionism is a colonialist movement in its inception, aggressive and expansionist in its goal, racist in its configurations, and fascist in its means and aims. Israel, in its capacity as the spearhead of this destructive movement and as the pillar of colonialism, is a permanent source of tension and turmoil in the Middle East…” (Article 19)
  • “The causes of peace and security and the requirements of right and justice demand from all nations … that they consider Zionism an illegal movement and outlaw its presence and activities” (Article 20)

The 1964 version is actually tame compared to the amended version adopted in 1968, but as the above quotes show, it’s more than sufficient to preclude any chance of peace. How can Israel possibly make peace with people who consider its very existence “illegal and null and void”; deny that Jews are a nation with any right to “independent existence”; deny any Jewish connection to the land of Israel; consider Zionism, the national movement of the Jewish people, to be “colonialist,” “racist,” “fascist” and “illegal”; and believe that only by eliminating Zionism can “peace and security” and “right and justice” be achieved?

Nor has anything much changed in 49 years, as anyone who follows Palestinian Media Watch would know. Just last month, for instance, another senior PA official widely considered a “moderate” in the West, Jibril Rajoub, told a television interviewer, “We as yet don’t have a nuke, but I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it [against Israel] this very morning.” PA officials and the official PA media still consistently deny the Jews’ historical connection to the land of Israel, teach their people that the ultimate goal is a world without Israel, and glorify those who murder Jews. And most Palestinians still think “the rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the state of Israel exists.”

Shuqueiri’s 1964 charter indeed reflects “what the Palestinians wanted”–and what they still want. And as long as that’s true, any “peace process” will be so much wasted time and effort.

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Israel’s unity government may prove a constitutional time bomb

That Israel will soon have a government is good news; almost any government would be better than the political dysfunction that has produced three elections in the past year. But aside from its existence, there’s little to like about this “unity” government.

The biggest problem isn’t that many important issues will perforce go unaddressed, though that’s inevitable given the compromises required when neither bloc can govern on its own. Nor is it the risk that the government will be dysfunctional even on “consensual” issues like rescuing the economy from the coronavirus crisis, though this risk is real, since both sides’ leaders will have veto power over every government decision.

Rather, it’s the cavalier way that Israel’s Basic Laws are being amended to serve the particular needs of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his new partner, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz.

Though Israel’s Supreme Court wrongly claims the Basic Laws are a constitution, they were never intended as such by the parliaments that passed them. Indeed, some were approved by a mere quarter of the Knesset or less.

But they were intended as the building blocks of a future constitution should Israel ever adopt one. That’s why this handful of laws, alone of all the laws on Israel’s books, are deemed “Basic Laws,” and why each addresses a fundamental constitutional issue (the executive branch, the legislature, the judiciary, human rights, Israel’s Jewish character, etc.).

In other words, though they aren’t a constitution, they do serve as the foundation of Israel’s system of government. And tinkering with the architecture of any democratic system of government can have unintended consequences, as Israel has discovered before to its detriment.

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