Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism in North America, has a piece in the Jewish Daily Forward arguing that it is a serious mistake for Israel to demand recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition for talks aimed at a peace settlement. The terms of Yoffie's argument strike me as misconceived. I don't say that Israel shouldn't negotiate without prior recognition. That's a matter of tactical judgement. If a negotiation looks feasible that will produce recognition as its result, then it is worth trying; and if not then possibly not. But Yoffie seems to me to displace that real tactical issue on to a set of different and less important concerns. One of these is what the precise sense of 'Jewish' in 'Jewish state' would be: even, or perhaps especially, amongst Jews it would be disputed. Then, talking about a Jewish state might grate on American ears and put in question the right of all Israel's citizens to full political and civil rights - even though the right is underwritten by Israel's own Declaration of Independence. And, most bizarrely of all, demanding recognition of Israel as a Jewish state cedes to others, according to Yoffie, the right to determine what kind of nation Israel should be.
But the demand is not about subtleties in the meaning of 'Jewish', or about qualifying the democratic nature of the Israeli state, much less about ceding the right of Jewish self-determination to external parties. The demand is about recognition plain and simple - recognition of the legitimacy of Israel. Yoffie's article simply confuses the matter.
Apropos: in the same issue of the Forward, see this report of a poll done at Tel Aviv University showing that 'public sympathy [in Israel] for settlers and the settlements is currently at an all-time low'.