Take a look at what it takes to get the Asst. Secretary of the US Department of State to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state. It boggles the mind! Thank heaven the reporters kept pressing the issue to the point where he felt absolutely cornered.
Keep these guys away from the negotiating table!
Philip J. Crowley
Daily Press Briefing
October 12, 2010
QUESTION: I mean, from the Palestinians’ point of view, I think they feel that what they’re being asked to do is to, if not give away the store, to make a very major concession. The corollary to acknowledging Israel as a Jewish state is, effectively, abandoning the so-called right of return for Palestinians to whatever – become the ultimate borders of the Israeli state. And that’s a major – what used to be called, “final status,” question – is it constructive to float offers or ideas like that just to get back into talks?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we think it’s constructive for the parties to put forward and to continue to put forward their ideas on – to demonstrate their commitment to and the importance of and the value of these negotiations. And this has to be something that’s done by both sides. They’re in the direct negotiations now. We want to see those direct negotiations continue. There is a pause in the action as we kind of work through the issue of the moratorium and settlements. But if Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has offered his thoughts on both what he’s willing to contribute to the process, what he thinks he needs for his people out of the process, we would hope that the Palestinians would do the same thing, and through this ongoing dialogue will gain the commitment on both sides to continue and to resume in these negotiations.
We will continue our discussions with both parties. We hope that a formula can be arrived at, conditions can be established that allow the prime minister and the president on behalf of their respective people to make the political commitment to stay in this direct negotiation. So this is the kind of process that we think is needed at this time. But ultimately, it will be up to the prime minister and the president to decide if they’re seeing enough, they’re getting enough, and they’re offering enough to sustain this process.
QUESTION: So the ball’s in the Palestinian’s court now? You want to see them make a counter offer or put some ideas out there?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s the responsibility of both the parties. This ultimately is – has – you work from back to front. This has to be an agreement that they make. It’s not something that we’re going to impose on either one of them. As we get down the road in this process, as we’ve said all along, we’re willing to offer specific proposals that might get beyond the inevitable challenges that we know we will face. We’ve offered our ideas to both sides to try to navigate through this particular issue that we currently confront over the settlement moratorium. But these are judgments that the leaders have to make. We want to see both of them stay committed to the process. We want to see both of them offer their thinking about what needs to be advanced and agreed to that allows both sides to stay in these negotiations. That’s what we want to see them do. But ultimately, it will be up to both to say these – that this is what we need to be able to make the difficult political decision that we know both of them face, whether or not stay directly engaged in negotiations.
QUESTION: Well, P.J. –
MR. CROWLEY: Michel.
QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?
MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I – it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. We will offer our ideas on – based on our conversations what our assessment is that – of what each side needs to be able to make the political commitment to remain in these direct negotiations.
QUESTION: And do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
MR. CROWLEY: We recognize the aspiration of the people of Israel. It has – it’s a democracy. In that democracy, there’s a guarantee of freedom and liberties to all of its citizens. But as the Secretary has said, we understand that – the special character of the state of Israel.
QUESTION: Is that a yes or no?
QUESTION: P.J., it’s – do you want to answer his question or –
QUESTION: Did you say yes or no to that question from Michel?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: Michel’s question was a yes or no sort of question. I was wondering whether that was a yes or no.
MR. CROWLEY: We recognize that Israel is a– as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes.
H/T to Rick Richman from Commentary Magazine who informs us that so far the Obama Administration has refused (22 times by his count) to state that it stands behind the commitment made by Bush to Israel in the Bush 2004 letter to Sharon about the Gaza disengagement. That letter states:
The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state. It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.
As part of a final peace settlement, Israel must have secure and recognized borders, which should emerge from negotiations between the parties in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338. In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.
In other words, the Obama administration has sent exactly the kinds of signals that give the Palestinians the confidence they have to continue to game any attempt at negotiations and peace.