News

The handshake on the White House lawn

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

By now, readers must know that I possess one of the hallmarks of weak judgment, I believe whatever the last person I talked to has told me; and in that spirit, let me pass along what a friend told me yesterday in favor of the two-state solution. Here’s what he said:

Obama seems determined to get a handshake on the White House lawn between Abbas and Netanyahu. He has in spite of the humiliations not dropped the issue, he knows how central it is, and smart people who have met him say that he “gets” it. Hillary’s spending eight hours with Netanyahu shows Obama’s determination, now that the midterms are passed. He seems to believe that taking a stand will not hurt him or help him in his hope of being reelected. And he is buying the Israelis off on the Iran piece by giving them planes that can reach Tehran.

The deal will not make a contiguous or viable Palestinian state? Obama is determined to get past that; states in this day and age are less important in territorial terms and more important as international actors; he means to make the Palestinians sovereign international actors. The Palestinians are divided? Abbas and the world will sell the deal to the Palestinians, and they will want political freedom and peace, and many will come along, Hamas will be divided, and even Gaza will come along.

I used to think that Obama had a 10 percent chance of getting a handshake on the White House lawn; now I think he has a 50 percent chance, said my friend. I don’t know what to think of the deal; I am waiting to see what Steve Walt says about it.

The conversation left me uneasy. If the handshake should happen, it would mean that the community I am in, of Palestinian solidarity, will also be divided; some may say that a deal is worth it to end the struggle and others will say that it is not a just peace and should be rejected. Adam Horowitz warned me about this over a year ago; he said, I think Obama is going to get a handshake on the White House lawn, and our community will have to figure out what to say about it.

I think I would be personally torn because my chief impulse here was not the Palestinian solidarity impulse, it was to get this thorn out of the U.S.’s side, in a fair way. I’m reminded of my friend who lectured me last winter on this score. He said, The game has not yet been played by Obama. “Maybe you’re arguing that you can get to one state without a high apocalypse risk and if that’s true, then I could get behind it, but I don’t think it’s true. So you’re in danger of advocating a kind of nihilism.” And I’m reminded of British legal scholar John Strawson’s argument in his book on Partition, published by Pluto: “Partitioning Palestine remains the only viable way of ending the conflict… All those who insist on recycling the old narratives will delay the decolonizing of Palestine and lay the basis for the next war.” And of course Roger Cohen, pushing the plan today, tells the Palestinians to give up their “narrative.”

I can’t say I agree with these folks. If you’re going to impose a solution on one side, why not impose a fair one, on both? But I wanted to put all this out there….

30 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments