Salam Fayyad Says Yes to Jews Living in a Palestinian State

I have long argued that the presence of Jews living on the West Bank does not present a problem to a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, for a true resolution would allow them to live peaceably in a Palestinian state. We’ll know the conflict has ended, I like to say, when the Jews of Hebron have no more need for security than the Arabs of Nazareth.

So, I read with considerable interest that Salam Fayyad, who calls himself the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (a title I do not use, by the way), said roughly the same thing at a meeting of the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Ideas Festival on July 4.

According to “Palestinian prime minister: Jews would be welcome in future state” by Brent Gardner-Smith in the Aspen Daily News, former CIA director James Woolsey noted that a million Arabs in Israel account for one-sixth of the Israeli population and that they “generally they enjoy the guarantees that Americans look for in the Bill of Rights.” He went on to ask:

Now, if there is to be the rule of law in a Palestinian state, and if Jews want to live in someplace like Hebron, or anyplace else in a Palestinian state, for whatever reasons or historical attachments, why should they not be treated the same way Israeli Arabs are? That would be, there could be a sixth of the population consisting of them. They could vote for real representatives in a real Palestinian legislature, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and most importantly, be able to go to the sleep at night without worrying someone is going to kick down the door and kill them.

Fayyad responded:

I’m not going to disagree with you. And I’m not someone who will say that they would or should be treated differently than Israeli Arabs are treated in Israel. In fact the kind of state that we want to have, that we aspire to have, is one that would definitely espouse high values of tolerance, co-existence, mutual respect and deference to all cultures, religions. No discrimination whatsoever, on any basis whatsoever. Jews to the extent they choose to stay and live in the state of Palestine will enjoy those rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the state of Israel.

Gardner-Smith reports that the crowd “applauded enthusiastically” at this statement.

Comments:

(1) I applaud it no less enthusiastically.

(2) But I would like Fayyad to say it not just in English the rarified air of Aspen, Colorado, but also in Arabic in Ramallah.

(3) Still, this is an important statement and a standard to which to hold the Palestinian Authority. (July 5, 2009)

Daniel Pipes

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Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and the author of several books, including Militant Islam Reaches America and In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power (Transaction Publishers), from which this column derives.

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