Israel's Right to Exist

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Ben Cohen
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By Ben Cohen

A reader writes in response to my post on Israel's dubious demands on the Palestinians, specifically Netanyahu's insistence that Palestinians recognize Israel's 'Right to Exist':

I spent ten days in Israel in 1981; my experience was that Israelis treated Palistinians very much the way whites treated African Americans when I was growing up in South Texas in the 1950's.

That said, it is important for Hamas, etc., to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. Not because of any ancient documents making declarations by God, but because Israel does exist. The logic is tortured, but it is there. To merely acknowledge that Israel does exist without acknowledging its right to exist necessarily opens the door to continued aggression against Israel. If there is no right to exist there is no reason one ought to not continue with rocket attacks and suicide bombers. It is in acknowledging the right to exist that the moral restraint on such attacks is predicated.

I have to disagree here. The concept that an indigenous people must accept the right of a foreign entity to exist on their land has nothing to do with international law. It's not required of any indigenous people anywhere else in the world, and can only be seen as an Israeli attempt to block any meaningful settlement. In a correspondence email to Phil Weiss of Mondoweiss, Noam Chomsky wrote:

No state demands a 'right to exist,' nor is any such right accorded to any state, nor should it be.
Mexico recognizes the US, but not its 'right to exist' sitting on half of
Mexico, acquired by aggression. The same generalizes. To my knowledge, the concept 'right to exist' was invented by US-Israeli propaganda in the 1970s, when the Arab states (with the support of the PLO) formally recognized Israel's right to exist within secure and recognized borders (citing the wording of UN 242). It was therefore necessary to raise the bars to prevent the negotiations that the US and Israel alone (among significant actors) were blocking, as they still are. They understood, of course, that there is no reason why Palestinians should recognize the legitimacy of their dispossession -- and the point generalizes, as noted, to just about every state; maybe not Andorra.

I think its a sticking point that Netanyahu will use to dig his heels into the ground and garner support in the U.S for his militant position. I don't believe Netanyahu has any interest in peace, and can use the whole 'They won't even accept our right to exist' argument to block it. Netanyahu is a serious hawk, and only gets voted in when people are fearful. If real peace looks like a reality, 'Bibi' will no longer be relevant, and that's not something a man with an ego the size of Dick Cheney can handle.