The political shocker from Israel this week is that Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who ran against Benjamin Netanyahu as the great hope of liberal Zionists in the United States, has now shifted to Netanyahu’s right– urging the prime minister to continue building settlements all over the West Bank. The Jerusalem Post says this puts Gantz on the side of the annexationists against Netanyahu, who has suspended plans to annex.
Gantz’s move shows once again that the only way to get ahead in Israeli Jewish politics is by going right, backing expanded Jewish settlement of “the Jewish homeland.” And remember, Israeli law says that only the Jews have the right to “self-determination” in the land.
No one in Israeli Jewish politics is talking about a two-state solution.
The destruction by Israeli leaders of self-determination for Palestinians has put pressure on liberal Zionists to choose which is more important, liberal values or Zionist ones; and two months ago Peter Beinart made a bombshell declaration that he is for one democratic state in Israel and Palestine, which would mean the end of the Jewish state. Beinart was attacked by liberal Zionists because he was undermining their position, that it is possible to preserve the “Jewish democracy” by separating populations of Palestinians and Jews (some day nobody knows when).
Well, Benny Gantz’s collapse has shaken another liberal Zionist to reconsider the program. Michael Koplow writes at the Israel Policy Forum that Israeli politics make it is absurd for Americans to maintain the claim that the large numbers of settlers on the West Bank are not an obstacle to a peace deal, and the real obstacle is that Palestinians must accept the Jewish “right to have a Jewish state in the Jewish historical homeland.” Koplow writes frankly:
[E]ven if that was the view of every Palestinian on earth, permanent settlements everywhere would still prevent the conflict from being resolved in a way that the Palestinians can and will accept.
Gantz’s shift has angered Koplow, a longtime Israel lobbyist in a centrist-liberal organization. He says the politics of Israel show that the settlements are here forever. And flexing his own power, Koplow says he wants the American Jewish community to open the discourse to include a one-state outcome.
There is an absolute contradiction between separation into two entities and keeping every settlement in place until the end of time.
Those who are honest about this will acknowledge that these things are inherently contradictory and adopt one of three positions: maintain the traditional posture on settlements [Israel keeps only settlement blocs] as the only path toward a viable two-state outcome, support a one-state outcome because the fact of settlements renders two states no longer possible, or argue that the hurdles posed by confederation are more easily overcome than the hurdles posed by dealing with settlements.
Koplow hints there that his position will be “confederation,” thereby preserving “the Jewish state.” Still, this is a remarkable shift on his part.
He has particular remorse for the role of the American Jewish community, including himself, for holding the bag for Israel, as it destroyed the two state solution.
The American Jewish community has long embraced the idea that while settlements are problematic, they are not the core problem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I believed that too.. In a world, however, in which Israeli leaders pledge that not one brick of one settlement will ever be dismantled, no matter how isolated or far flung, and that not one Israeli will ever be asked to move, even with compensation, that belief is no longer sustainable…
Koplow has surely been influenced by Beinart and the next generation of anti-occupation Jews (IfNotNow). But his shift shows the pressure that is growing inside the Jewish community against a happy lie: that it is possible to carve two ethnically-distinct states out of the small territory.
This communal pressure has yet to bear political consequences. While it is true that even congresspeople noticed Peter Beinart’s bombshell collapse back in July, the Democratic Party leadership are still enforcing adherence to the two-state delusion so as to prevent a divisive discussion here of the reality: Israel’s apartheid and unending human rights violations against a captive population.
Koplow’s shift is another indication that discussing the reality is inevitable. Then Democratic politicians will come under pressure from the progressive base to support sanctions against Israel. And bipartisan support for Israel, as it exists, will no longer be the rule of U.S. politics.