The never-ending deathbed vigil for the two-state solution has reached a new stage. Government officials in Washington and Jerusalem are now openly abandoning the idea of partition, while U.S. establishment figures, including many liberal Zionists, are bewailing the pronouncements.
Last night Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended an event celebrating the settlements deep in the West Bank. And he assured Israelis that Jews are never leaving the colonies in what was supposed to be a Palestinian state. Ynet:
“This is the inheritance of our forefathers, this is our country,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony. “We came back here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the Land of Israel.”
חוגגים הערב 50 שנות התיישבות בשומרון! נמשיך לבנות ולפתח את ההתיישבות ואת כל חלקי ארצנו.
צילום: קובי גדעון, לע״מ pic.twitter.com/SodfZztgtn
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) August 28, 2017
A White House official pointedly declined to criticize Netanyahu for his statement, per the Jewish Insider.
That refusal follows the State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert saying last week that it would be “bias” for the State Department to commit the United States to two states. “We are not going to state what the outcome has to be. It has to be workable to both sides.”
The former peace processor and liberal Zionist Aaron David Miller expressed outrage; even a “make believe peace process” is better than this:
Absolutely can’t even have a make believe peace process without endorsing 2 states.
Former ambassador Daniel Shapiro, now working for an Israeli thinktank, explains what a make-believe peace process is– “conflict management.” I.e., maintain the occupation with as little violence as possible:
State Dept saying endorsing 2 states makes US biased is absurd. It’s okay to have a bias toward the only outcome that serves US interest.
Whether the near term effort is to conduct negot’s or conflict management, clarity that 2 states is the ultimate goal helps shape the field.
And getting serious Arab state buy-in w/such a vague approach will be difficult & may squander the oppt’y to get them to open up to Israel.
The liberal Zionist organization J Street is also appalled by the State Department statement. Jeremy Ben-Ami, the exec there, says that “for decades” there’s been “only one viable resolution — partition of the land into two states.”
The two-state solution isn’t about bias, it’s about finding a compromise to a nearly century-old, bloody conflict that meets the needs of both parties.
Calling the two-state solution “biased” and reneging on decades of established policy is irresponsible and sadly demonstrates that this administration has no serious policy on yet another critical policy issue.
Ben-Ami says there’s a historic opportunity to get Arab nations in on a two-state deal, but Trump is abdicating responsibility, and allowing Israeli settlements to grow even more, which will cause Palestinians to turn to violence. J Street’s dream:
What [US envoy Jason Greenblatt is] hearing from Israel’s intelligence establishment, security experts and our allies regionally and globally is undoubtedly a near-universal consensus: The two-state solution is essential to any hope this administration has of securing Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, improving relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors and bringing the occupation of the Palestinian territory to an end.
The centrist Israel lobby organization the Israel Policy Forum is also worried about violence:
After months of consultations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Trump Administration’s continued refusal to publicly endorse the goal of a two-state solution is very troubling. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert’s explanation this week “to not really bias one side over the other,” is confounding. At this juncture, refraining from endorsing a two-state solution only demonstrates American bias in favor of those who are opposed to the two-state goal and undermines the Administration’s efforts to promote peace and security in the region.
The Israeli government isn’t buying. It continues to blame Palestinians for everything. Israeli ambassador Dani Dayan speaking to the Jewish Federations in Ohio:
The UN Secretary General visited with Netanyahu yesterday to urge a two-state solution, and Netanyahu promptly denounced the body:
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) August 28, 2017
The Netanyahu administration is plainly thrilled with Donald Trump’s vacillations on the matter. The Daily Beast headline captures the moment: “Jared Kushner’s Mideast Peace Push Is Going Nowhere. That’s Why Israelis Love It.”
“Past American administrations jumped into the peace process pool before checking if there’s any water in it; we jumped after them and cracked our heads,” Dani Dayan, Israel’s consul general in New York, told The Daily Beast. He commended Kushner’s go-slow approach, saying, “Perhaps he’ll realize there’s no water in this pool, and so there’s no reason to jump in.”
Publicly, after meeting with Kushner, Jerusalem and Ramallah officials made statements that were remarkably similar, using words diplomats have long employed to obscure content. Privately, however, several Israeli officials say they expect no progress. Further, they’re grateful the Trump administration, unlike previous ones, exerts no pressure on them to make major concessions.
In the National Interest, Daniel Levy states that the field has now been left to one staters– those seeking expulsion of Palestinians, and those seeking equal rights for Palestinians. And the world will be on the Palestinians’ side in the long term.
Cleaning out the cobwebs on the failed Oslo paradigm could prove to be a good thing, but Netanyahu does not have exclusivity on what may replace it. If the logical endgame of the Netanyahu paradigm is expulsion, then the logical alternative to partition will be equality. National liberation may be a hard sell in the twenty-first century. Equality over expulsion, not so much.
Israel has proven able to make some geostrategically deft moves, but there are factors hard-wired into this conflict for which Israel has no good answers. For as long as the Palestinians steadfastly remain on the land, Israel has a control and governance problem, made all the more challenging by the existence of a numerically overwhelming Arab and Muslim hinterland….
The damage Netanyahu has done to the partition paradigm is increasingly irreversible; the improvements he has made to Israel’s regional and international equities appear largely reversible. Indicted or not, the “victories” Netanyahu bequeaths to his successors will not taste sweet.
Levy says what I always say: Netanyahu couldn’t have solidified the occupation and destroyed the two-state solution without American Jewish organizations backing him up. He is justly cynical about those groups’ support for human rights for Palestinians:
In more traditional bastions of support for Israel, Netanyahu took a calculated gamble—would enough American Jewish support continue to stand with an increasingly illiberal and ethno-nationalist Israel, thereby facilitating the perpetuation of the lopsided U.S.-Israel relationship? Netanyahu bet yes, and he was right. Even the recent fallout with the nonorthodox (reform and conservative) streams of Judaism in the United States (the majority of American Jews) over prayer arrangements at Jerusalem’s Western Wall and over rights to conduct conversions seems unlikely to upend Netanyahu’s winning bet. The very fact that these supposedly most liberal of Jewish communal groups have gone to the mats on narrow parochial concerns while failing to speak out on the ongoing denial of the most basic of rights to the Palestinians can be notched up as another win for Netanyahu….
Finally, there continues to be talk about an “Outside-In” approach in which the increasing cooperation between the United States and Israel and Saudi Arabia results in pressure on the Palestinians to cut a deal for sovereignty on a few fragments of land. Khaled Batarfi in the Saudi Gazette says there is no “Outside-In” alternative. The Arab Peace Initiative has been on the table for 35 years, and Arab nations will not budge from it. The piece is a reminder of how central the Palestinian cause remains to Arabs throughout the region.
We have invested a huge political capital to get 22 Arab and 57 Muslim governments to agree on the Arab Peace Initiative (API). It is still on the table against calls to withdraw it. According to the initiative, tough questions, like refugee return and Jerusalem status were left to negotiations. So were the final borders, leaving space for land exchange. Normalization is already guaranteed once resolution is achieved. If Israel is serious about peace, it should accept API…
A Moroccan asked: But what if Israel refused? Would Saudi Arabia accept to join other Middle Eastern players and negotiate directly with her?
I relayed what King Faisal said to his consultants when they argued that Israel won’t accept peace on just terms and the superpowers of the world are supporting her, so we need to be flexible since we don’t have an option. His answer was, “We could always say no. No one can take that power from us. Future generations may have better options, but if we accept an unjust deal now, we deny them their choice.”
Today, Saudi Arabia, the Arab and Muslim leader, will still say no to any option not accepted by Arabs and Muslims. There is no way around the API no matter how much pressure Israel’s friends exert on us. For just, true and lasting peace with Israel, there is only Plan A.
Thanks to Terry Weber.