Is Israel a Jewish state?
Is the pope Catholic?
Nothing about Israel could be more self-evident than its Jewishness. As Poland is the national state of the Polish people and Japan is the national state of the Japanese people, so Israel is the national state of the Jewish people. The UN's 1947 resolution on partitioning Palestine contains no fewer than 30 references to the "Jewish state" whose creation it was authorizing; 25 years earlier, the League of Nations had been similarly straightforward in mandating "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." When Israel came into existence on May 15, 1948, its Jewish identity was the first detail reported. The New York Times's front-page story began: "The Jewish state, the world's newest sovereignty, to be known as the State of Israel, came into being in Palestine at midnight upon termination of the British mandate."
Today, half the planet's Jews live in that state, many of them refugees from anti-Semitic repression and violence elsewhere. In a world with more than 20 Arab states and 55 Muslim countries, the existence of a single small Jewish state should be unobjectionable. "Israel is a sovereign state, and the historic homeland of the Jewish people," President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly last month. By now that should be a truism, no more controversial than calling Italy the sovereign homeland of the Italian people.
And yet to Israel's enemies, Jewish sovereignty is as intolerable today as it was in 1948, when five Arab armies invaded the newborn Jewish state, vowing "a war of extermination and a momentous massacre." Endless rounds of talks and countless invocations of the "peace process" have not changed the underlying reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is not about settlements or borders or Jerusalem or the rights of Palestinians. The root of the hostility is the refusal to recognize the immutable right of the Jewish people to a sovereign state in its historic homeland. Until that changes, no lasting peace is possible.
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