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Update from AIJAC

November 16, 2007
Number 11/07 #07

This Update leads with two reactions to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat's declaration, which we noted yesterday, that the Palestinians will never recognise Israel as a Jewish state.

First up, American columnist Jeff Jacoby analyses the absurdity of the Palestinian position that "it is not acceptable for a country to link its national character to a specific religion." He points out that not only do the 55 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference do this, as well as Argentina, Britain, Greece and others, but so does the Palestinian Authority which Erekat supposedly represents. For his take on the troubling real reasons for this stance, CLICK HERE.

Next up, the Jerusalem Post also had an editorial on the same topic, which points out that it was not just Erekat who made these remarks, but several other supposedly moderate Palestinian leaders. It argues that such an attitude essentially contradicts the idea of a two-state solution, and concludes, "The Palestinians expect Israel to accept their existence and rights as a people. The Jewish people expects no less." For the paper's full discussion, CLICK HERE. An alternative view comes from Israeli columnist Yoel Marcus, who argues that it is "like denying the legitimacy of our own national existence" for Israeli leaders to even make a demand that Israel's Jewish nature be recognised.

Finally, Israel's leading expert on nuclear proliferation issues, Dr. Efraim Asculai, who is himself a former employee of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), weighs in on the topic of the IAEA's role in halting Iran's nuclear program. Asculai argues that the claims by the IAEA and its head, Mohamed elBaradei, that the agency has both the "authority and capability" to investigate all nuclear claims are both factually and legally incorrect. He also says elBaradei appears to be allowing politics to  dictate elements of his findings and statements about Iran. For Dr. Asculai's full argument, CLICK HERE. As if on cue, elBaradei has produced a new report on Iranian compliance which stresses Iran's cooperation with the IAEA at the expense of Iran's blatant non-compliance with binding UN Security Council demands to halt uranium enrichment. Also, Dr. Barry Rubin has brought his usual lucidity to what is being attempted in Iraq policy at the moment, and why it has to be done now.

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Is Israel a Jewish state?

IN ADVANCE of the upcoming diplomatic conference in Annapolis, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced the other day that he expects the Palestinian Authority to finally acknowledge Israel's existence as a Jewish state. A newly arrived visitor from Mars might wonder why this should even be an issue - after all, Israel is a Jewish state. If the more than 55 countries that make up the Organization of the Islamic Conference are entitled to recognition as Muslim states, and if the 22 members of the Arab League are universally accepted as Arab states, why should anyone balk at acknowledging Israel as the world's lone Jewish state?

Yet Olmert's demand was rebuffed. Saeb Erekat, the senior Palestinian Authority negotiator, said on Monday that Palestinians would refuse to recognize Israel's Jewish identity on the grounds that "it is not acceptable for a country to link its national character to a specific religion."

In fact, there are many countries in which national identity and religion are linked. Argentinian law mandates government support for the Roman Catholic faith. Queen Elizabeth II is the supreme governor of the Church of England. In the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, the constitution proclaims Buddhism the nation's "spiritual heritage." The prevailing religion in Greece," declares Section II of the Greek Constitution, "is that of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ."

In no region of the world do countries so routinely link their national character to a specific religion as in the Muslim Middle East. The flag of Saudi Arabia features the shahada - the Islamic declaration of faith - in white Arabic script on a green background; on the Iranian flag, the Islamic phrase "Allahu Akbar" (God is great") appears 22 times. And then there is Erekat's own Palestinian Authority, whose Basic Law provides in Article 4 that "Islam is the official religion in Palestine."

Clearly, then, Erekat and the Palestinian Authority do not refuse to accept Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state out of some principled opposition to linking national and religious identity. Perhaps, our visiting Martian might surmise, their objection is simply tactical: Are the Palestinians withholding formal recognition from Israel in order to extract some corresponding recognition for themselves?

But that explanation also doesn't hold water. Olmert has repeatedly endorsed the creation of a sovereign state of Palestine. "We support the establishment of a modern, democratic Palestinian state," he says. "The existence of two nations, one Jewish and one Palestinian, is the full solution to the national aspirations and problems of each of the peoples." Last week he went so far as to suggest that a plan for Palestinian peace and statehood might be achieved "even before the end of President Bush's term in office."

So why won't the leaders of the Palestinian Authority acknowledge the obvious - that Israel is the Jewish state? The Jewish connection to Palestine is a matter not just of rich historical fact, but of international law. When the League of Nations entrusted Britain with the Mandate for Palestine in 1922, it expressly recognized "the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine" and the rightfulness of "reconstituting their national home in that country." By that point, Britain had already transferred 80 percent of historic Palestine to Arab rule - today's Muslim kingdom of Jordan. All that remained for a Jewish state was the residual 20 percent. But there, at least, it was clear that the Jewish community was "in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance," as Winston Churchill underscored at the time.

Eighty-five years later, that small sliver of the Middle East is home to nearly half the world's Jews. If that isn't a Jewish state, what is?

Yet all this is beside the point. The refusal of the Palestinian Authority to acknowledge Israel as a legitimate Jewish state isn't a denial of reality; it is a sign of their determination to change that reality. Like Arab leaders going back a century, they seek not to live in peace with the Jewish state, but in place of the Jewish state. Olmert can show up at Annapolis bearing Palestinian sovereignty on a silver platter, with half of Jerusalem thrown in for good measure. He will not walk away with peace. On the contrary: He will intensify the Arab determination to replace the world's one Jewish state with its 23rd Arab state.

The key to Arab-Israeli peace is not Palestinian statehood. It is to compel the Arab world to abandon its dream of liquidating Israel. As a matter of national self-respect, Olmert should repeat his demand that the Palestinians acknowledge Israel's Jewish identity - and make it nonnegotiable. If Israel cannot insist even on so fundamental a point of honor, it has already lost more than it knows.

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Editorial: The recognition sham

THE JERUSALEM POST, Nov. 14, 2007

Yasser Arafat recognized Israel's right to exist in 1988. He shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin and signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. The PLO later ostensibly amended its covenant, as Bill Clinton visited Gaza, to eliminate calls for Israel's destruction. Most recently, the Palestinians approved the road map, which again was based upon recognition of Israel's right to exist.

So the Palestinians accept Israel's existence, right? Well, perhaps not. Now, on the eve of Annapolis, we discover that all of these claims of recognition may have been a giant sham.

On Monday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, "The problem of the content of the document [setting out joint principles for peacemaking post-Annapolis] has not been resolved... One of the more pressing problems is the Zionist regime's insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state.

"We will not agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state," Erekat said. "There is no country in the world where religious and national identities are intertwined."

On Tuesday, another prominent Palestinian negotiator, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said, "It is only a Zionist party that deals with Israel as a Jewish state, and we did not request to be a member of the international Zionism movement."

Yesterday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad joined in these statements. And Erekat chimed in again on Al-Arabiya TV: "Israel can define itself however it sees fit; and if it wishes to call itself a Jewish state, so be it. But the Palestinians will never acknowledge Israel's Jewish identity." (emphasis added).

All this is mind-boggling from an Israeli perspective. To Jews and Israelis, it is obvious that if Israel is not a Jewish state, meaning (at least) a state with an overwhelming Jewish majority, than it would simply become the 22nd Arab state. Israel would cease to exist.

The Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state suggests that all their solemn and myriad expressions of Israel's right to exist did not mean anything. They did not mean that the Palestinians accepted the Jews as a people (as Palestinians expect to be accepted), or that Israel is the legitimate expression of the Jewish people's right to self-determination.

Erekat's claim that the "intertwining" of religious and national identity is unusual, let alone unique, is nonsense. Perhaps he has not heard of the Islamic Conference, a group of 55 states, or the Church of England. While Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, will officially not let Jews set foot in their country, Israel has never seen a contradiction between its Jewishness and the need to respect and protect non-Jewish minorities.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated this week that Israel would not participate in any post-Annapolis negotiations except on the basis of Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. In essence, Israel is demanding that the Palestinians end their double game.

If Israel is not a Jewish state, it is Palestine, which is exactly the point. So long as they hold to their positions, Fayad, Erekat and Abed Rabbo, representing Palestinian "moderates," are not espousing a two-state solution but a "Greater Palestine" ideology.

There is no way for Israelis to understand the refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state other than as a rejection of the two-state solution and the embrace of the "strategy of stages," whereby a Palestinian state is not an end of claims against Israel, but a down-payment toward Israel's destruction.

As Olmert says, there is no point in entering a "peace process" on this basis. Every conception of the two-state vision has assumed a foundation of genuine mutual recognition. The first point of the first phase of the road map, for example, begins: "Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel's right to exist in peace and security...."

Oslo's Statement of Principles begins, "[Israel and the PLO] agree that it is time to... recognize their mutual legitimate and political rights...."

The 1947 UN partition plan called for dividing mandatory Palestine "into Jewish and Arab states."

Without mutual recognition, there is no basis for negotiation. The Palestinians expect Israel to accept their existence and rights as a people. The Jewish people expects no less.


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Does the IAEA Have the Authority and Capacity to Investigate Nuclear Non-Compliance?

Ephraim Asculai

INSS Insights,  No. 34

November 8, 2007                         

On October 28, 2007 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General (DG), Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, criticized the Israeli attack on a suspected Syrian nuclear site and said, "If countries have information that the country is working on a nuclear-related program, they should come to us."   He then went on to argue that the Vienna-based Agency "had the authority and capacity to investigate any such information."  In view of past performance, the claim of "authority and capacity" bears review.

The IAEA Secretariat, the organization headed by Dr. ElBaradei, does not have the authority to investigate any accusation in a given country unless either:
1.    the accusation concerns an installation which has been placed under safeguards by agreement with the host country;
2.    the IAEA has an Additional Protocol Agreement with country in question (giving it some extra inspection privileges);
3.    the country in question has invited the IAEA to investigate the accusation; or,
4.    the IAEA Board of Governors (BOG) has approved a Secretariat request for a Special Inspection, and the country in question has acquiesced to that request. The only time where a request for a Special Inspection was approved by the BOG, the country in question (North Korea) declined to comply with the request. Consequently, the inspection was never carried out.

The conclusion of all this is that the IAEA does not, in fact, have the authority to force any investigation upon an unwilling IAEA Member State.

With respect to the "capacity" part of the DG statement, the past history of the IAEA does not sustain his argument.  Capacity implies two things: the ability to uncover the facts and the willingness to point an accusing finger when the evidence warrants it.  Claims of IAEA ability to uncover the facts are refuted by the examples of Iraq and Libya, where it took, respectively, a war (the First Gulf War) or a multinational Proliferation Security Initiative action to expose nuclear weapons development programs; in neither case did the IAEA play any effective role.

But even when the IAEA has had the facts, it has declined to produce any indictment in a timely manner, primarily for political reasons (which should be immaterial for a supposedly “non-political” Secretariat).  The most blatant example was when the Secretariat had all the facts concerning Iran's concealment of its huge uranium enrichment program but declined to name Iran as being in "non-compliance" with its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations.  For years, it stated only that Iran was "in breach" of its obligations, a term that did not mandate referring the issue to the United Nations Security Council.  The IAEA is well aware of installations and activities at various sites in Iran but declines even to point them out since it does not have any authority to inspect them.

This leads into a different but related issue, Dr. ElBaradei's insistence that he hasn't seen “any concrete evidence” of a secret Iranian weapons program.   If the issue were not so serious, this statement would invite ridicule.  Given the history of Iranian deception, dissimulation and concealment of activities and the roadblocks that Iran has put in front of inspectors, it is stunningly naïve to rely on what the DG has not see as evidence of what does not exist.  And those who are not partisans of the DG can be forgiven for asking what, short of actually seeing operational weapons, would lead him to admit that there actually is a possibility that Iran is actually in the process of building a nuclear weapons capacity.

Dr. ElBaradei has also estimated that Iran is still at least a few years away from “being able to build a nuclear bomb.”  In light of the technical facts as reported by Dr. ElBaradei himself to his BOG and to the Security Council, it is not at all clear to what the DG is referring.  "Being able to build a nuclear bomb" means enriching enough weapons-grade uranium and assembling all other necessary components. The IAEA may well be in charge of ascertaining whether the first requirement has been met but it has no way of investigating the second requirement.  In fact, the IAEA has reported Iranian progress in uranium enrichment, the first quantities of which are already being amassed.  In that, sense, the potential for producing a nuclear weapon is steadily advancing.

Nevertheless, weapons capacity is still a matter of process rather than of situation, and it can be stopped, though only by an intense, universal effort.  Brokering deals among the international actors and trying to persuade and appease Iran will certainly not achieve the desired end.  If Dr. ElBaradei really wants to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, he has to start with honest and accurate reporting rather than acting as a judicial officer determined to preserve Iran’s status as non-guilty of any infraction unless and until its guilt is demonstrated "beyond a reasonable doubt."  The stakes are too high to accommodation this standard of behavior.  In a domestic court of law, a defendant could walk free and become a menace, causing real but not mortal damage to society as a whole.  But the possible consequences of Iran becoming a nuclear-armed menace for the region and for the world are far more serious, and Dr. ElBaradei therefore needs to adopt a different and more proactive approach.

Dr. Efraim Asculai is Senior Research Fellow at Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies. Dr. Asculai worked for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission for over 40 years. In 1986, he was appointed to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, working on issues of radiation protection of the public. He participated in the Geneva deliberations leading to the conclusion of the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Dr. Asculai was a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington, D.C., and authored Verification Revisited: the Nuclear Case.