Shibley Telhami said today that the two-state solution is a “psychological solution” that has allowed world leaders and liberal supporters of Israel to escape moral responsibility for the wrongs of the Israeli occupation. But the time has come that this psychological solution is “immoral,” he said.
Telhami, a Beltway insider who is an analyst at Brookings and a professor at the University of Maryland, explained:
“If we wake up in the morning, and say it looks like the two state solution isn’t going to happen, I think that psychologically we rationalize it and say it’s still going to happen, I can’t give up on it, in part because we just can’t live with the dissonance. I think that rationalization is immoral. At some point you’re going to have to call it the way it is. I think that’s why I believe a lot of people are reaching that point where you look yourself in the mirror, ‘I know I know, I’m still saying it’s still possible, but it it really? Am I escaping moral responsibility? Am I escaping making the tough choices I have to make.’ And I think each one of us is going to look in that mirror.”
Telhami spoke on a conference call organized by Americans for Peace Now. He responded to a question from Kathleen Peraitis, a board member of the organization, and said the issue of dissonance is especially pertinent for liberal Zionists:
“The two-state solution was a psychological solution for many to resolve the dissonance, particularly for many people who wanted to support Israel and at the same time have a moral position, a liberal position, an accommodating position for human rights.”
Telhami said he senses growing “anger and frustration” from the Obama administration over the failure of the peace talks:
Here in the elite around this administration, there’s no question, one senses this anger and frustration and feeling that it’s about time to do something else.
He also said there’s a shift in the Democratic Party, where people are putting more weight on human rights and international law than on being for Israel.
Some pressure on the elites comes from American public opinion. Telhami’s polling shows that if the choice is between occupation, annexation, or one state with equal rights, two-thirds of Americans say they would then support one state with equal citizenship– including 52 percent of those who call themselves pro-Israel. And when you ask the public if you have to choose between Jewishness and democracy, again more than two thirds of the American public would choose democracy over Jewishness.
Of course the Obama administration has to deal with domestic political pressures, Telhami said, meaning the Israel lobby. And he predicted that with the end of peace talks, the Obama administration’s only real option is to lay out a specific plan for a solution of the conflict, ala the Clinton Parameters, and “put teeth” in the plan by indicating that the U.S. will not veto a UN Security Council resolution against settlements.
By allowing that resolution to go through, the U.S. would be enabling Palestinians to take their case to international fora, including the International Criminal Court, over such matters as house demolitions. And that would make the conflict “an international issue,” rather than an American domestic issue, and cause the Israelis to make concessions allowing a two-state solution.