Israel's pressure on Palestinians to recognize it as a Jewish state is an attempt to legalize "racism," a PLO official said Jan. 11. PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said defining Israel as a Jewish state would signify that any Jewish person would have the right to return to Palestine, while Palestinians would lose that right. Ashrawi told Ma'an News Agency that Israel wants to "create a narrative that denies the Palestinian presence, rights, and continuity on the historic Palestinian lands." A "Jewish state" recognition would exempt Israel from its responsibility toward the Palestinian refugees who were forcibly displaced from their homes in 1948, she said.
Similarly, a former Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset said that recognizing Israel as such a state would "annul the Palestinian narrative about the Nakba." It would abolish the right of the refugees to return, said Talab al-Sani.
During US-mediated peace talks with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly cited recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition for peace. It is the "minimal requirement for peace," Netanyahu told the Saban Forum on Middle East policy in Washington on Dec. 8. There would be peace, Netanyahu said, if "there were no longer any Palestinian national claims on the Jewish state—no right of return … no residual claims of any kind. And that, the Palestinians have so far been unwilling to give."
More than 760,000 Palestinians—estimated today to number 4.8 million including their descendants—were forced into exile or driven out of their homes in the conflict surrounding Israel's creation in 1948. Palestinian officials have repeatedly said that recognizing the concept of Israel as a "Jewish state" is unnecessary and threatens the rights of nearly 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of Israel who remained in their homes during the displacement of the majority of the Palestinian population during the 1948 war.
The right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land is enshrined in article 11 of UN Resolution 194. The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
From Ma'an News Agency, Jan. 11