One result of the Israeli election is that it cements the Democratic Party’s role as the anti-Netanyahu party, the party opposed to the rightwing goal the prime minister embraced in the last days of the campaign, to annex the illegal Jewish settlement blocs on the West Bank.
In recent days, many leading Democrats have come out against the Netanyahu plan, with Pete Buttigieg echoing Bernie Sanders’s words of four years ago (you don’t have to agree with Netanyahu). Since Netanyahu’s reelection the warnings from Dems have become more dire.
Dianne Feinstein, surely the most principled of the old-guard Democrats, said yesterday that Israel cannot “maintain its military occupation of the West Bank in perpetuity”:
Now that Prime Minister Netanyahu will likely form the next government, I urge his coalition to exercise restraint and reject campaign promises to annex any portion of the West Bank – doing so would be a serious blow to lasting peace…
For its own long-term survival, Israel must choose a different path forward. As Israel forms a new government, I urge its leaders to take no action – particularly annexing the West Bank – that would kill a two-state solution.
Before the election, pro-Israel Rep. Jan Schakowsky issued an alarm:
For years, bipartisan majorities have signed onto congressional resolutions supporting a two-state solution. Netanyahu has issued a direct threat against that vision. To my colleagues who’ve expressed their support for two states: Your voices are needed now.
Former Obama official Julian Castro is making the issue a centerpiece of his campaign to be president:
In abandoning our position as a good faith partner in the Middle East peace process, the Trump admin has enabled reckless actions like this from Netanyahu. US support for a two-state solution is on the line in November 2020.
J Street is urging all Democratic presidentials to draw the line on annexation.
Castro joins @PeteButtigieg and @BetoORourke in calling out Netanyahu’s dangerous pledge to annex the West Bank.
This is the type of principled leadership we need from 2020 hopefuls.
Senator Chris Van Hollen two days ago pressed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the Trump administration’s view of “unilateral annexation.” Notice Van Hollen’s near desperation as he sees facts changing on the ground:
It sounds like you have already abandoned what has been a bipartisan foreign policy of opposing the annexation of any or part of the West Bank by Israel… The polls are closing right now in Israel. Things could move very quickly. And as you know the prime minister as a candidate said he would annex all or part of the West Bank. He said settlements and then he said outposts. And today you cannot tell us what US policy is on the issue…. Do you agree that Palestinians should be extended basic human rights?
Pompeo said yes, but didn’t answer the overall policy issue. Van Hollen then imagined one state with equal rights!
If you had a one state solution since you hadn’t affirmed a two-state solution would you agree that in a one state solution Palestinians should have full and equal political and legal rights with other citizens of that state?… I asked you about unilateral annexation… You can’t tell me if that’s something you support… Do you think that you can preserve a state that is Jewish and democratic and preserves the rights of all its citizens without a two-state solution?
Van Hollen on twitter:
After asking multiple times, @SecPompeo refused to tell me if the United States would oppose @Netanyahu’s plan to unilaterally annex all or large parts of the West Bank even though it would clearly sabotage any prospect for a two-state solution.
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine did the same two-step with Pompeo (Jewish Insider’s clip from C-Span).
Kaine: Would we support an annexation of the West Bank, do we oppose it, or are we indifferent to whether that happens?
Pompeo: We are now working with many parties to share what our vision is for how to solve this problem. Senator, you would concede that for decades now there have been all of these wonderful experts that have tried resolve this crisis in the Middle East, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people, and they have each failed. So the old set of ideas aren’t worth retreading, they have simply not succeeded. We are hopeful that our vision, our ideas of what this might look like, how we might proceed to do that– will create the conditions where the Israelis and the Palestinians can resolve this.
Kaine: Do you think the two-state solution is an old idea whose time has gone?
Pompeo: It’s certainly been an idea that’s been around a long time, Senator…I would argue that millions of man hours have been spent to try and build out a two state solution. It hasn’t worked to date. It may work this afternoon, but it hasn’t worked yet.
Pompeo did say the Palestinians have to buy in to the solution.
For there to be a peaceful resolution here, the Palestinian people are– we’ve seen intifadas, we’ve seen protests, we’ve seen what’s happening in Gaza. I think the Israelis accept the fact that what the ultimate resolution of this will be something that the Palestinian people are going to have to acknowledge makes sense.
Kaine said he was shocked.
I won’t follow up on the hypothetical of whether this administration still accepts the notion of a two-state solution. I’m kind of shocked that that can’t be stated clearly.
Martin Indyk is shaping the Democratic response to annexation, it will not bring peace.
There was no chance of Israeli-Palestinian peace before Trump recognized Israel’s Golan annexation; there’s even less than none if Bibi forms an annexationist government which now seems likely. The only peace Trump will make is between him and Bibi…
It’s been three days since Netanyahu declared his intention to annex all West Bank settlements. Radio silence from the Trump Administration. Has @jdgreenblatt45 lost his twitter thumbs? Or should we assume that silence means acquiescence?
Aaron David Miller has the same view:
Trump is the most preternaturally pro-Netanyahu US President in history. If he enables Israeli Government’s annexation of West Bank and facilitates Netanyahu’s efforts to end run his indictments he may well be remembered as one of the most anti-Israeli presidents in history.
Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street warns that annexation will alienate American Jews.
“We will see a fundamental change in the US-Israel relationship… The move to annexation, cementing Palestinian disenfranchisement, is not acceptable for a majority of the Democratic Party and most American liberal Jews”
Jane Eisner issued a similar warning about divorce between American Jews and Israel over annexation on WNYC this a.m.
Michael Koplow issued the warning at Israel Policy Forum:
If American Jewry feels marginalized now, just wait for what is coming…
Any hope of amending, let alone repealing, the nation-state law is going to be a cruel joke. The dominant theme of this government is going to be hardline religious policies that erase the already barely visible line between state and religion, and it will make American Jews feel more marginalized in the Jewish state than they already do
Abe Silberstein at Israel Policy Forum hopes that Netanyahu forms a centrist government with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White that won’t attempt annexation, but that’s not the smart money. “[T]he chances of some sort of annexation on the West Bank are considerable.”
Most Israeli experts I follow are predicting a completely right-wing coalition, ranging from Likud to the extremist Union of Right-Wing Parties. This would be the worst outcome for Israelis primarily concerned about the rule of law and the country’s democratic future: not only do the number of Knesset members who support annexation vastly outnumber those favoring separation (even fewer speak explicitly of the two-state solution), but there is a predictable deal on the table to trade a limited annexation for passage of a retroactive “French Law,” which would give Netanyahu full legal immunity for offenses committed while in office.
But perhaps worst of all, the strongest deterrent against annexation is effectively on the sidelines: Yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to say if the United States would oppose unilateral annexation.
Silberstein says that will alienate American Jews.
This puts diaspora Jews concerned about the Jewish state’s liberal democratic character in a gut-wrenching bind. There is no clear path forward to stopping annexation in the short and medium term through Israeli and American political institutions. Perhaps the European Union could provide Netanyahu the room to maneuver her needs to fend off annexationists (that is, if he still opposes annexation).
(Well, liberal Zionists could come out for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). That would be a countermove.)
Lastly, here for the record is Beto O’Rourke’s full quote on Netanyahu being a racist, from CNN correspondent DJ Judd. Annexation figures prominently.