President Barack Obama is fond of a rhetorical device called the “false choice.” He marks out two straw men on opposite extremes, then claims his own (staunchly left-wing) “compromise” position is the only sensible route. Occasionally, however, there really are false choices. One such is the Palestinian vision for the future of Israel, which Palestinian UN representative Riyad Mansour presented to Charlie Rose on PBS Wednesday.
Mansour, commenting on whether Palestinians would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, said: “It is up to them to decide what kind of a state they want to be. Do they want to be a democratic state where Israel will be the state for all of its citizens? Or do they want to be a state for the Jewish people and, therefore, excluding 1.6 million Palestinian Arabs who are Israelis from their society? That debate is not our debate. That debate is their debate.”
That is a false choice. Israel is, in fact, a Jewish state, and was always intended to be–as well as a state that honors the equal rights of all of its citizens. The two are not mutually exclusive. Israel does not want the Palestinians to say that it should be a state for Jews alone, but rather to recognize that the Jewish people have the right to political self-determination in the ancient land of Israel.
Mansour’s decryption of a “state for all of its citizens” does not mean what it might seem. It is a deliberate reference to the “one-state solution” (a misnomer, since it would solve nothing) that Palestinians increasingly use (along with left-wing Israelis and Americans) to push Israel into making concessions. The threat is that unless Israel withdraws from territory soon, Palestinians will outnumber Israelis in the land as a whole, and any Israeli state that remains would have to be maintained through apartheid-like political oppression.
Rose, missing the subterfuge, replied: “It is your debate if, in fact, they insist that you recognize them as a Jewish state, as part of the agreement.” Mansour replied that Palestinian officials had rejected that demand. What Rose did not ask is why Mansour and the Palestinians insist that their own state be free of Jews and other minorities–whether the kind of state they envision is one that truly deserves international support.