I just returned from the AIPAC policy conference. It was a well-organized, professional event, spanning over three days. It was wonderful to see how AIPAC continues to grow and to feel the sense of global support for Israel which fills the air with a steady buzz. Speakers reinforced the importance of the American-Israel relationship and were greeted with applause and standing ovations.
Israel’s security was clearly of concern to all who spoke, with Iran’s nuclear aspirations being first and foremost on everyone’s minds.
The halls were filled, the mission to avert an Iranian imposed nuclear catastrophe was clear, and the love for Israel was palpable. Yet I left Washington with a heavy heart.
With two newly elected leaders in Israel and the U.S., dynamics are changing. It became clear that the Obama administration is about to begin pressuring Israel to take immediate steps toward the two-state solution. Senator Dianne Feinstein encouraged the large delegation of California voters to help push in this direction. She said, “Talk about it in your synagogues, your communities. Talk about the two-state solution in Israel.”
She noted that until now, there were “excuses” for why Israel couldn’t move forward. First, she said, Arafat was a problem. Then there were other reasons. There must be no other reasons, she said. The time is now. She was clear that Israel should withdraw from the West Bank as soon as possible. She was not the only elected official who optimistically and urgently promoted this policy.
Each time I heard it, I worried. I did not understand how these people, who seem genuinely concerned about Israel’s security, could possibly believe that the situation on the ground indicates it is time for such a dramatic move.
We have seen this movie before. Doesn’t this administration remember? First it was Lebanon. Arafat formed a mini-state in southern Lebanon and carried out cross-border terrorism in northern Israel. Israel finally retaliated, sending in tanks and ousting the PLO. In May 2000, Israel unilaterally withdrew from its small security zone in Lebanon. The Palestinians viewed the withdrawal as a sign of weakness and celebrated. Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, claimed victory over Israel and now has thousands of rockets threatening northern Israel. Then there was Gaza, previously occupied by Egypt. Israel won Gaza as part of its defensive war in 1967. Over the years, Jews in Gaza filled the sandy beachfront with state-of-the-art greenhouses that grew high quality fruits, vegetables, and flowers. In 2005, for the greater goal of peace, Israel gave up the Gaza Strip and evacuated all Jews in the hope that the Palestinians would take advantage of the offer of peace and beachfront land and begin nation building. But they didn’t. Sadly but not surprisingly, Hamas has used the very areas Israel evacuated to launch thousands of rockets into communities in southern Israel.
Tragically, the goal of eliminating Israel remains. Listen to what terrorist groups are saying. President Ahmadinejad of Iran declares that Israel will be destroyed soon. Hamas calls for Israel’s destruction in its founding document and in current speeches. Their founding document matches those of Hezbollah and Fatah. Israel is surrounded.
But Senator Feinstein and others are pushing for an immediate two-state solution. But with whom is Israel to have a two-state solution? The PA is weak and fragmented with Hamas and Fatah locked in often violent confrontations. The PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, seen as a moderate, recently stated that he does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, defying the logic of a two-state solution. PA society is saturated with anti-Israel, anti-Semitic incitement. School books teach hatred and genocide. The streets of Palestinian communities are still filled with jumbo posters celebrating suicide bombers.
Contrary to Senator Feinstein’s claim, now does not seem to be the time. Unjustified “excuses” have not prevented a two-state solution. There are real and serious obstacles to its realization.
Israel wants peace and knows first-hand the facts on the ground that have prevented it. The U.S. administration should defer to Israel’s expertise, not repeat the misguided policies of the past and impose premature solutions from afar which could have disastrous repercussions.
All supporters of Israel should work together to ensure that the administration does not pressure Israel into premature, dangerous concessions, but treats it as an equal — a sovereign, successful state that desperately wants peace but that knows from bitter experience what will and will not bring peace closer.