Just had a Jerusalem meeting with a US government official. Inevitably, as our group is a delegation from Churches for Middle East Peace, someone asks, “What can we do back home to most effectively advance the peace process?” To persuade Israel of the desirability of the two state solution? This time the question came after we had been given a sophisticated analysis of Palestinian prime minister Fayyad’s state-building actions, an acute explanation of how narrow his window was, and a well informed explanation of how the Palestinians have done more or less everything anyone could reasonably ask to make themselves “state-worthy”.
So how to push Israel to precipice of saying, well, yes, we actually have a partner, we don’t want to be an occupying power, let’s go for it?
The answer would be laughable if the official wasn’t extremely well informed, and if Akiva Eldar hadn’t responded pretty much the same way to the same question two days ago.
Try to influence prominent centrist American Jews, ones with strong Zionist credentials, Eldar had said, Israel listens to them. Our government official was even more concrete: When Jeffrey Goldberg or Thomas Friedman writes something, Israelis take it seriously. Everything else they feel they can ignore.
I want to follow up and ask if they would ignore a more comprehensive BDS and government abetted BDS campaign, but that isn’t part of our group’s dynamic. Next year, maybe.
I should add that Eldar did raise the possibility of something measured, pointed and sophisticated that isn’t on the BDS continuum but would surely get the attention of many Israelis. Europe, he noted, has it in its power to require Israelis to secure visas before traveling there, and could quite easily put on the visa application “Have you ever served in the occupied territories? Please elaborate.” And grant visas accordingly. A mild and elegant little proposal.
In the meantime, forget about petitioning Congress or Obama, they don’t really matter