Monday, March 26, 2012

One State, Two States

One State, Two States

Steven Bayme

Does a one-state solution constitute a tragedy for Israel whether advocated by her foes or friends? The answer is unequivocally yes! As Peter Beinart readily concedes in "The Other One Staters", the recent one-state conferences at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania featured individuals who favored the dismantling of Israel as a Jewish state. 

But the alternate scenario of permanent Israeli occupation of Judea and Samaria confronts Israel with the spectre of ceding either its democratic values or its Jewish ethos. For that reason successive Israeli Prime Ministers-whether Labor, Kadima, or, yes, Likud—have each underscored their commitment to a two-state solution. Sadly, their proposals have been rebuffed consistently—initially by Arafat and subsequently by Abbas, to say nothing of Hamas. 

Beinart complains that AJC and other leading Jewish organizations invest far greater efforts attacking Palestinian one-statism than Christian or Jewish one-statism. The reason for this is that the latter are largely peripheral to the American Jewish community and, more importantly, do not represent Israeli governmental policy. Conversely, however, no Palestinian state exists today for the same reason one was not created following the 1947 UN Partition Resolution or any time thereafter: Continued Palestinian rejection of Israel’s right to exist at all. 

Witness, for example, the common formula that “Israel is occupied Palestine”, meaning that the Israel created by the 1947 UN Resolution itself constituted an illegal occupying entity. One should add that the Hamas Covenant, unamended since its 1988 adoption, unequivocally rejects negotiations with Israel over territory in favor of jihad against the “Jews’ usurpation of Palestine”. 

Nor are such sentiments limited to extremists. Even during the heady days of Oslo, suspicions grew that a Palestinian state bordering Israel would ultimately serve as a springboard to eliminate Israel completely. Thus, for example, the late Feisal Husseini, reputedly a “moderate” in Palestinian Authority circles, termed Oslo a “Trojan Horse” for the future dismantling of Israel from within. As recently as last October, Abbas Zaki, a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee noted in an Arabic-language interview that final-status negotiations should be based on the 1967 borders because “everybody knows that the greater goal cannot be accomplished in one go…If we say that we want to wipe Israel out…it’s too difficult. It’s not acceptable policy. Don’t say these things to the world.” The goal apparently remains the elimination of Israel, but it is not politic to say so publicly. 

Little wonder that while we disagree profoundly with the one-state solution of the Christian Right, we find Palestinian one-statism a greater danger precisely because it is articulated by people with whom Israel is expected to make peace. We need clear and unequivocal Palestinian statements—in Arabic and in Ramallah—that a future Palestinian state will live in peace alongside Israel. Arafat could not bring himself to say this at Camp David, and his successors have similarly failed to do so. 

Beinart chides AJC for failing to criticize Israel’s settlement policies, which, he argues, “make the two-state solution ever harder to achieve.” He misreads us. AJC and its spokespersons have distinguished between settlements in areas ultimately to be incorporated within Israel and those to become part of a Palestinian state. The latter we believe to be ill-advised. By the same token, however, we have noted repeatedly that settlement construction continued throughout the Oslo years, suggesting that Palestinian refusal to negotiate absent a complete settlement freeze is more indicative of its obstinacy than of Israeli reluctance to exchange territory and recognize statehood for real peace. 

Last, Beinart claims that were AJC to criticize “Pro-Israel” one-statism, we would find ourselves on a “slippery slope to J Streetism.” The distance separating AJC from J Street resembles oceans more than mountain slopes. AJC and other leading Jewish organizations believe that only direct negotiations between the parties themselves, accompanied by a shared willingness to compromise on long-held aspirations, may lead to a viable and sustained peace. Increased American pressure on Israel absent Palestinian willingness to accept Israel as a permanent presence in the region will only increase Israelis’ concerns about ultimate Palestinian intentions. 

In the absence of an explicit and clear expression of Palestinian willingness to recognize Israel, the AJC's key priority remains strengthening Israel-U.S. ties and continuing the “special relationship” between America and Israel. We see that as the appropriate role of responsible American Jewish leadership. By contrast, J Street’s policies appear designed to drive wedges between America and Israel in a misguided effort to “save Israel in spite of herself”, as former Under Secretary of State George Ball once lamentably put it.