Rep. Ted Deutch cheerfully personifies the imbalanced relationship of the United States with Israel and Palestine. In an hour-long briefing yesterday with a pro-Israel organization, the Florida congressman repeatedly slammed Palestinian leaders: for not taking the Trump plan seriously, for demanding that Jerusalem be the capital of a Palestinian state, for not recognizing “that Israel is a Jewish state,” and for rejecting supposed offers for peace from Israel.
Deutch did express “concern” over the Israeli government’s West Bank annexation plans, but did so reluctantly. Questioning a “rightwing” Israeli government’s decisions doesn’t “suggest any antipathy or outright attack against any policy of Israel,” he said, and is not “easy for all of us who love Israel and care deeply about this relationship.”
Deutch shared no such love for Palestinians. The chair of the Middle East subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee spent much of the hour blaming Palestinian leaders.
There is no shortage of blame and criticism to be cast on Palestinian leadership over the years. I passed a resolution condemning incitement… I think President Abbas is ineffectual. He has not taken bold steps to prepare the Palestinian people for real peace. The martyr payments…I’ve brought up repeatedly with the Palestinians directly. The missed opportunities, obviously– everyone points to the offer from [Ehud] Olmert in 2008. All of that is well documented.
A supporter of Trump’s moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, Deutch faulted the Palestinians for not engaging with the Trump plan (which even liberal Zionist organizations have called a “sham”.)
It should be pretty clear that President Abbas is not someone who is one that is known to take risks. We’ve already talked bout the 2008 Olmert offer… we can go back to 2000…. If you don’t like what’s in this plan, then put out your own plan. The response from Palestinians can’t simply be to say, Well, we weren’t included, and we have some friends around the world who don’t like it. And today’s story that we’re going to reach out to the Chinese and see if maybe they can come in and help us out here. That’s not the way to respond, certainly not a way that gets to the ultimate goal of meeting the aspirations of the Paelstinian people…
Continuing his criticism of Abbas, Deutch referred to comments by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu saying that Israel will annex land without giving citizenship to Palestinians who live there. Deutch not only failed to criticize Netanyahu’s statement, but suggested that Israeli rights were also jeopardized by annexation.
As the prime minister pointed out the other day— it’s pretty clear that there will be some places in this plan where Palestinians live on sovereign Israeli territory who don’t have rights, and Israelis on Palestinian territory who will be subject to Israeli law, it’s confusing.
Deutch said he was “frustrated” with Abbas for countering the Trump plan with unserious ideas of Palestinian rights. Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
President Abbas has a responsibility to do more than complain, but to come and put out your own plan and tell us what you need. That’s a point I’ve made with him directly in Ramallah with members of Congress at my side. .. The onus isn’t just on Israel…
The response I got in return was that the confidence-building measures should be Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and a right of return for all refugees and borders on the ’67 lines…. Those aren’t confidence-building measures. That’s not serious, that’s a whole series of conditions which make it impossible to ultimately get to peace. If there’s ultimately going to be a two state solution, it’s going to require good faith on both sides. It’s going to require that President Abbas recognizes that Israel is a Jewish state. That’s again– the kind of thing that shouldn’t be too heavy of a lift….
If I seem frustrated, the frustration is there’s been this understanding that there have to be negotiations.
Palestinians say that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state was never part of the Oslo peace process and has been demanded in recent years by Israel as a poison pill– because such recognition denies the rights of the substantial Palestinian minority in Israel and also of Palestinian refugees. Every international proposal to partition the land into two states has given Palestinians a capital in Jerusalem.
Deutch’s one-sidedness fulfills a longtime criticism by Palestinians that American leaders are not honest mediators but “brokers of deceit,” as Rashid Khalidi has put it.
Deutch also flatly faulted Abbas for rejecting COVID-19 aid from the Gulf States recently, because it would be flown into Israel first.
“Is it utterly inexplicable that President Abbas would take the position that a plane full of supplies…. that he would refuse them because the plane flew into Israel and he can’t do anything that might further normalize relations between Israel and the Gulf States. It’s inexplicable… He shouldn’t do that.”
By contrast, the congressman seemed to apologize for even criticizing Israel over annexation.
“Expressing concern about unilateral annexation isn’t extreme at all. It’s the position of most of the largest cross section of the US Jewish community…. to preserve Israel’s future as a secure and Jewish state. It’s also the way to give Palestinian people also a hope eventually for a state of their own and a prosperous and peaceful future.”
Deutch repeatedly faulted Donald Trump for trying to politicize the Israel issue. This is a threat to Israeli security because politicization could divide the U.S. Jewish community and make Israel a political football, ending the era of bipartisan U.S. support for Israel, he said.
Joe Biden, whom Deutch has endorsed for president, is dedicated to keeping Israel a bipartisan issue. Biden wants to see Israel “prosper as a secure Jewish democracy” and will only disagree with Israel as a “friend,” Deutch said, suggesting that Biden won’t air disagreements.
Asked about the Democratic Party platform, Deutch dismissed criticisms of Israel originating from the progressive rank and file. He said the platform will express strong support for the US-Israel relationship, as a bipartisan policy. The best place to see what will be in the platform is a resolution by the US House, expressing support for military aid to Israel, support for a two state solution, and opposing the boycott campaign that targets Israel for its denial of Palestinian rights. “The Democratic Party has spoken to that already.”