How the conflict in the Middle East blows up the region, the Democratic Party and every synagogue in America
Lord knows, I sympathize with President Joe Biden’s desire to avoid being drawn into mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas made it clear to me: Unless we at least preserve the potential of a two-state solution, the one-state reality that emerges in its stead will not do that. blowing up Israel, the West Bank and Gaza; it could very well blow up the Democratic Party and all the Jewish organizations and synagogue in America.
Yes, that’s what I learned last week.
I don’t expect Biden to summon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Camp David. As long as both are in power, no serious compromise is possible. But it’s vital that Biden urgently take action to re-energize the possibility of a two-state solution and at least give him concrete diplomatic manifestation on the ground.
Because without this horizon – without any viable hope of separating Israelis and Palestinians into two states for two peoples – the only result that will remain will be a state in which the Israeli majority dominates and the Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank will be systematically deprived of it. ‘equality. rights so that Israel can preserve its Jewish character.
If that happens, the accusation that Israel has become an apartheid-like entity will resonate and gain ground everywhere. The Democratic Party will be fractured. A growing chorus of progressives – who increasingly describe the IDF’s treatment of Palestinians as tantamount to the treatment of blacks by the Minneapolis Police Department or the treatment of indigenous peoples by colonial powers – will insist on alienating states -United Israel and, perhaps, even lead to the ban on arms sales.
Meanwhile, centrist Democrats will push back on the fact that these progressives are incredibly naive, that they have no idea how many two-state peace plans the Palestinians have already rejected – which have decimated the Israeli peace camp – and that none of their causes, from women’s rights to LGBTQ rights to religious pluralism, would last a minute on the Hamas-run campus of the Islamic University of Gaza.
As the past two weeks have demonstrated, every Jewish organization and synagogue in America will be sharply divided on this question: are you prepared to defend an Israel from a state that no longer even claims to be a democracy, an Israel from a state whose do leaders prefer to rely on uncritical support from evangelicals rather than critical support from Jews?
Finally, Jewish and non-Jewish students on every college campus will also be forced to grapple with this issue or shy away from the debate as much as possible. More and more will abandon Israel. You can already see it happening. And anti-Semitism will thrive under the guise of anti-Zionism.
It will become very ugly. Any nuance will be lost. Twitter and Facebook will become battlegrounds between critics and supporters of Israel, and Donald Trump and Republicans will fan the flames, telling American Jews they have no future in the Democratic Party and urging them to stand aside. give it back to the GOP – which, with its grassroots evangelism, no doubt supports the Jewish state… for now.
“People need to understand that this issue has been transformed in the past two weeks,” said Gidi Grinstein, chairman of the Reut Group, a leading Israeli think tank. “The place of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in American society and politics – and within the Jewish community – has shifted from a bipartisan issue to a corner issue. ”
And it is now a problem of cleavage not only between Democrats and Republicans, he added, “but also between Democrats and Democrats. This is very bad news for Israel and for the Jewish people. Israel and Biden must urgently work together to defuse it. ”
Therefore, I hope that when Secretary of State Tony Blinken meets with Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week, he sends a very clear message: “From this day forward, we will treat the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank as a Palestinian. A State in the Making, and we will take a series of diplomatic steps to achieve Palestinian Statehood in order to preserve the viability of a two-State solution. We respect both of your concerns, but we are determined to move forward because preserving a two-state solution is not just about your national security interests; it is about our national security interests in the Middle East. And it is about the political future of the centrist faction of the Democratic Party. So we all have to get it right. ”
For starters, Biden is expected to reshape US-Israel-Palestinian relations by opening a diplomatic mission to the Palestinian Authority – as the nascent Palestinian state government – near its headquarters in Ramallah. At the same time, he should invite the Palestinian Authority to send a diplomatic representative to Washington as a potential ambassador of a future Palestinian state.
The Trump administration, led by its Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a rabid supporter of Jewish settlements across the West Bank, has done something truly reckless: it hasn’t just moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem , without obtaining any Israeli concessions in return. ; it also closed the United States consulate in East Jerusalem – which had long been the United States’ separate and distinct diplomatic link with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza. Trump has just made him part of the Palestinian affairs unit at our embassy in Israel, reporting to the US ambassador.
This effectively wiped out any separate U.S. diplomatic representation to the Palestinian Authority. Instead, Trump expanded the tenure of the US ambassador to Israel to include the Palestinian Authority in the Hamas-ruled West Bank and Gaza. In other words, rather than having two embassies for two peoples, Trump created a one-state embassy, with a one-state ambassador, which together reflected Israel’s drift towards a one-state solution. By opening a US diplomatic mission in Ramallah and not just East Jerusalem, Biden would reverse that and strengthen the PA’s fledgling statehood.
Second, Biden should offer peace talks with Trump’s plan as a starting point. He roughly proposed that Israel would get 30% of the West Bank and the Palestinians 70%, plus land swaps. The Palestinians would have a capital outside of Jerusalem. The plan was ridiculously lopsided in Israel’s favor, and the Palestinians categorically rejected it. But the fact that Netanyahu accepted it makes it an effective starting point – not an end point – for negotiations. It could also generate GOP support for Biden’s two-state revival.
Third, the United States should encourage the six Arab states that have normalized relations with Israel (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates) to simultaneously move their embassies from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem – which all countries around the world would recognize it as part of Israel and that would make Israelis happy – and would open embassies to the nascent Palestinian state in Ramallah, just like the United States. It would also reinforce the reality of the two states, and Israel would find it very difficult to oppose it.
Fourth, the United States should encourage those Arab states to massively increase their financial support to the PA and to make aid to Gaza conditional on aid flowing only through the PA – not directly to Hamas and not through international organizations such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
Again, as long as Netanyahu and Abbas run their respective entities, the chances of reaching a two-state deal are slim. But at least those steps would preserve the possibility of one down the road. Today, it is more important than ever – not only to Israelis and Palestinians, but also to many Americans and Democratic Party lawmakers, to the global Jewish community, and to Biden himself.
Thomas L. Friedman, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner for Middle East coverage and commentary, is a columnist for the New York Times.