Netanyahu yesterday offered to renew the settlement freeze if the Palestinians accept Israel's definition of itself as a Jewish State. The Palestinians promptly said no. This isn't particularly troubling, since the settlement freeze is a temporary matter and such recognition would have permanent implications, so it's like trading apples for ownership of land: not a serious proposition. It would have been much more helpful had Netanyahu offered a settlement freeze, to be monitored by the Americans, for a cessation of Palestinian incitement against Israel in the media and education system, likewise to be monitored by the Americans. Now that would be a move towards creating an environment of peace. But of course, no-one will ever be able to end Palestinian incitement, so no-one even moots it. Regrettable, actually.
Hussein Ibish, one of the more reasonable Palestinian voices out there (well, he's in Washington, not Ramallah, so he's perhaps not fully a "Palestinian" voice), rejects Netanyahu's call, while noting - plausibly - that in effect Netanyahu is talking about Jerusalem, not Jewishness of Israel: the essence of a Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish State would be no significant Right of Return; Netanyahu (speculates Ibish) hopes to achieve that goal without paying its price, which is the division of Jerusalem. This must be rejected, says Ibish, as Right of Return is a matter to be discussed at the very end of the process.
Perhaps. Yet this begs a question: if at Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001, and the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations of 2007-2008, there were Israeli offers to divide Jerusalem, and none of which (so far as we can know) ever included any indication of a Palestinian willingness to relinquish their demand for a Right of Return - when, exactly, will such an offer be made? First Israel must agree to dismantle all settlements, move back to the lines of 1967 (with or without land swaps), divide Jerusalem, accept some responsibility for the Naqba.... and then what? Having achieved much of what they demand, the Palestinians will then, from the goodness of their hearts, give up on their dream of using the return of great-grandchildren of refugees so as to demographically take over Israel?
The negotiations have repeatedly reached their end station, and at least three times in the past decade Israel has made ever growing concessions on the most central of issues. The Palestinians have never even discussed the single greatest of their demands, much less offered any compromises on it. So when, pray tell, will it be politically correct to request this of them?