David Cameron heralding Israel as a Jewish state is nothing new since the British were the first to offer Zionists such a status in 1917.
But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says he will never accept Israel as a Jewish state, just as a state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjaman Netanyahu says there will be no Palestinian state unless Israel's Jewish identity is acknowledged.
Both parties have good reasons for their adamant feelings about this relatively basic condition.
The 1917 Balfour Declaration, which would be implemented when the British took control of post WW1 Palestine, registered support for a Jewish refuge in ancient Judea. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/middle_east/israel_and_the_palestinians/key_documents/1682961.stm
The Arabs, while now to some degree acknowledging Israel exists, still don't recognize it as a Jewish homeland. That's mainly because in the Muslim world Islam has to have primacy over all others in that sphere. It rejects the primacy of any other faiths, even though Israel is not a theocracy.
What this rejectionist view highlights is something rather unique in the world: Can a religion and a people be one? Some Palestinian leaders discount Israel as a Jewish state because it is just one of a few religions in the country. Christians and Muslims come from diverse nations and ethnic groups. But all DNA evidence has proven Jews are indeed a specific Semitic people, closely related to some Arabs groups. In fact Jewish genes have been found in a few Palestinians.
It comes down to this: You can follow Judaism and yet not be a Jew. Yet, an ethnic Jew is Jewish no matter what religion he or she follows.
Netanyahu, aside from his strong Zionist views, feels the Arab League, for which the Abbas acts as a surrogate, will never really accept Israel unless they accept the reason it was created in the first place. It was created as a Jewish homeland and refuge.
The reality is that Israel today is a multi cultural social democracy in which most people happen to be a diverse collection of Jews from all over the world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DutFZ9abLH0
Indeed it can be argued that the nation faces bigger challenges from some of its own religious zealots.
Still, the refusal of the Arab states to recognize Israel as Jewish brings both sides right back to the root of the conflict, something that may never be resolved. The Arab League won't accept a non Arabic state, non Muslim state in the Middle East.
To understand Abbas' view one must go back to the 1950s when Lebanon was a relatively wealthy Arab country with a difference. It was majority Christian nation with a large Muslim minority. Unhindered by strict Islamic finance laws, it became the Arab world's Switzerland where other Arab nations could launder their oil money.
However, a few years after the 1967 War with Israel, in which the Arabs lost much of the territory still occupied by Israel today, Abbas' followers lead by Yasser Arafat tried unsuccessfully to overthrow King Hussein of Jordan. Arafat's goal was to declare a Palestinian state there.
Hussein, after a bloody conflict known as Black September, drove Arafat's followers into Lebanon, an action that shifted the demographics and power in favour of the Muslims. It fuelled the long lasting civil war there that eventually had Israel invade and occupy much of the country in an answer to Arafat's attacks against Israel from Lebanese soil.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_September_in_Jordan
This proved to be a costly mess for Israel and the civil war effectively cantonized the country, destroying its unity and wealth.
The current Palestinian leadership, which excludes Hamas ruled Gaza, feels by forcing Israel to accept Palestinian refugees, who in fact should be citizens of the Arab countries in which they were born, and the high birth rate of Israeli Arabs, they will repeat what they did in Lebanon. This time Muslims would outnumber Jews. But, if Israel is an official Jewish state, it becomes a serious problem for a new Arab majority. Or, Israel could limit the number of Arabs in the Jewish state. The UN estimates less than 40,000 of the original 1948 Palestinian refugees are still living. The millions of their descendants living in camps have been denied citizenship by host Arab nations.
This then brings up a question rarely posed: What's more important to the Palestinian Authority, the welfare of their people or replacing Israel with an Islamic state? If welfare was of the utmost importance why would they make so many unrealistic demands on Israel and not negotiate an unconditional peace treaty? It's almost as if they didn't want a peace treaty or state.
This may seem far fetched. But remember for nearly 100 years the Arab nations have been ruled by a collection of dictators, most of whom had one common trait: They have kept their populations below or just above the poverty line. The worse thing for most dictators is having a wealthy and educated population. The grip Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have on their people would weaken if the masses experienced affluence and freedom.
The biggest roadblock to creating a Palestinian state isn't West Bank settlements. It continues to be an Arab leadership whose main focal point has been overtly and covertly carrying on a war of attrition, of sorts, against Israel in line with the PLO Charter, a document that has never been discarded.
What the Palestinian people need are leaders who will negotiate a realistic deal with
Israel, not one that continuously becomes hung up on unacceptable conditions designed to destroy the very fabric of the country..
Again, it comes down to religion and tribalism. The majority Arab rejectionist states demand Islamic primacy and pax Arabia...virtually the same thing a they demanded in 1947. You see while some now accept Israel as a reality, they feel it will be short-lived one.