A Jewish state refers to the debate that is in progress on the nature and character of Israel. Modern Israel came into existence on 14 May 1948 as the homeland for the Jewish people. However, the nature of the new state as a Jewish state was undefined and is the subject of continuing debate, and is the cause of some conflict in the Arab-Israel conflict.
Since the establishment of the state, Israel has passed many laws which reflect on the Jewish identification and values of the vast majority of its citizens. However, the secular versus religious debate in Israel in particular has focused debate on the Jewish nature of the state. Another aspect of the debate is the status of minorities in Israel, most notably the Israeli Arab population.
The first usage of the term "Jewish state" was by Theodor Herzl who in late 1895 wrote Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) giving birth to the modern Zionist movement. There was no reference to a Jewish state by the Zionist Organisation that he founded, preferring at first to use the description "Jewish homeland" or similar terms. The 1942 Biltmore Program of the Zionist Organization explicitly called "that Palestine be established as a Jewish Commonwealth." In 1946, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, also known as the Grady-Morrison Committee, noted that the demand for a Jewish State went beyond the obligations of either the Balfour Declaration or the Mandate, and had been expressly disowned by the Chairman of the Jewish Agency as recently as 1932.
The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which brought the British mandate to an end in 1948, referred to a "Jewish state" and an "Arab state."
The term "Jewish state" has been in common usage in the media since the establishment of Israel, and the term was used interchangeably with Israel. The first US official to use the term was then United States Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in a 2001 speech on the Middle East, in which he briefly called on Palestinians to recognize Israel as a "Jewish state" after an Israeli diplomat convinced an aide to slip the phrase into his speech. George W. Bush used the term in his speeches and in a controversial exchange of letters with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004. Obama has also adopted the phrase, most recently in a speech in September 2010 to the U.N. General Assembly. The Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought Palestinian recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state". However, Palestinians regard a "Jewish state" as a trap, a new demand that did not come up during years of negotiations in the 1990s or in peace treaties reached with Egypt and Jordan. The Palestine Liberation Organization recognized the State of Israel as part of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Palestinians regard acceptance of the demand as giving up the right of return.
Famous quotes containing the words jewish and/or state:
“Dr. Craigle: A good man, completely reliable. Not given to overcharging and stringing visits out, the way some do.
Phil Green: Do you mean the way some doctors do or do you mean the way some Jewish doctors do?
Dr. Craigle: I suppose youre right. I suppose some of us do it, too. Not just the Chosen People.”
—Moss Hart (19041961)
“Wherever the State touches the personal life of the infant, the child, the youth, or the aged, helpless, defective in mind, body or moral nature, there the State enters womans peculiar sphere, her sphere of motherly succor and training, her sphere of sympathetic and self-sacrificing ministration to individual lives.”
—Anna Garlin Spencer (18511931)