Empty Talk of Two States
By Jonathan S.
March 6, 2018
was, the endorsement of a two-state solution by the executive director of AIPAC
wouldn’t have been news. But when Howard Kohr told those who gathered for the
group’s annual conference on Monday that the organization still believes in a
vision of two states for two peoples, it was considered significant. Kohr
understood that affirming the pro-Israel lobby’s stance in favor of what has
long been considered the only rational solution to the conflict makes sense even
if there is little reason to believe in the peace process right now.
AIPAC had good reason to take this position, no one should think this is about
any more than a matter of smart politics for a group that desperately wants to
keep disgruntled liberals inside the big pro-Israel tent. Nor should U.S. Vice
President Mike Pence’s statement—in which he expressed the Trump
administration’s willingness to consider endorsing two states if the parties
should choose such a solution—be seen as an indication that the administration
intends to go down that path if it announces its own peace plan in the coming
some true believers hold on to hope that this formula can be revived in the near
future if either, or both, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas step down from power. At the moment,
however, talk about two states is nothing but posturing.
motivation for reiterating a position that it has endorsed many times in the
past is obvious. Giving lip service to two states is the price the group must
pay in order to hold together a loose coalition of pro-Israel activists that
includes Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. Jews who are
most inclined to be steadfast supporters of Israel these days are more likely to
be found on the political right and among the Orthodox. But AIPAC can’t afford
to write off the vast majority of American Jews who are liberals and who demand,
at the very least, that the lobby must support the concept of two states, even
if no one thinks anything resembling peace is likely to happen soon. That means
they must adopt the pose that Netanyahu used during most of the Obama
administration when he stated his theoretical willingness to live with a
Palestinian state, while at the same time making it clear that he didn’t think
it was a realistic option.
bears remembering that Netanyahu endorsed a two-state solution during a speech
in 2009, shortly after he returned to the prime minister’s office. But in
recent years, he hasn’t felt the need even to nod at such an eventuality.
reason for this has partly been to keep his right-wing coalition partners happy
and partly a simple acknowledgement of reality. Nor is he alone in this stance.
Even the two men who are his most credible challengers in the next
election—assuming, that is, that Netanyahu makes it to the next election due
to the flurry of corruption charges lodged against him—are also not sanguine
about peace breaking out anytime soon. Both Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and the
Zionist Union/Labor’s Avi Gabbay have policies towards the Palestinians that
aren’t much different from Netanyahu’s.
a perfect world, the two-state solution is the most rational approach to solving
the conflict between Jews and Palestinians over the small piece of land between
the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. If the Palestinians were prepared to
admit defeat in their century-old war on Zionism—and accept the permanence and
legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders were drawn—they
would find most Israelis ready to make drastic concessions.
as Kohr correctly pointed out, the reason why peace hasn’t come isn’t due to
Netanyahu’s intransigence, or because—as former President Obama
disingenuously asserted—Israelis haven’t yet found the courage to take risks
for peace. It’s because even the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority is
dedicated to perpetuating the conflict. Rejection of Israel and Jewish rights
over any part of the country isn’t as much a strategy as it is an integral
part of the Palestinian identity. Abbas’s efforts to keep his grip on power
are rooted in fomenting hatred for Jews and Israel so as to successfully compete
with the Islamists of Hamas.
rejections of peace offers, added to a continued incitement and funding for
terrorists on the part of the P.A., have soured the overwhelming majority of
Israelis on the concept of two states. Most think that a Palestinian people
still in thrall to a violent political culture rooted in rejection of Zionism
couldn’t keep even a theoretical cold peace. They view the notion of a
withdrawal from the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem as a repeat of former
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disastrous experiment in Gaza, when he
pulled every settler, settlement and soldier out of the strip. Israelis would
probably still be willing to trade land for peace, but understandably, they have
no desire to trade more land for more terror.
the Arab states that were once the greatest cheerleaders for the Palestinians
are no longer interested in backing them in an endless conflict with a Jewish
state that is a strategic partner for those nations that wish to resist Iran’s
efforts to achieve regional hegemony. It was no surprise, then, that the
Trump-Netanyahu meeting yesterday centered on Iran (while ignoring the
The door to the theoretical possibility of peace should never be definitively closed. But as long as the Palestinians are not interested in making positive steps forward, it won’t matter how many times Israelis or Americans say the words “two states.” Until a sea change among the Palestinians occurs, any further discussion about this is just empty talk.