Two ‘State’ Challenges

Opinion

By Nathan J. Diament

Published May 27, 2009, issue of June 05, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In the weeks leading up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s White House meetings with President Obama, the American Jewish community vigorously debated whether to support a “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Groups on the left called for Obama to press the Israeli prime minister to openly state his acceptance of the “two-state solution,” while groups on the right urged Netanyahu to resist any presidential arm-twisting.

In the leaders’ Oval Office press conference, Netanyahu threaded the needle on this issue by stating: “I want to make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them. We want them to govern themselves, absent a handful of powers that could endanger the State of Israel… my view is less one of terminology, but one of substance.”

With this statement, Netanyahu made explicit what so many, on the political left and right, have elided or assumed for many years. The term “state,” in the context of international law and diplomacy, has a specific meaning of sovereignty and autonomy. A state gets to run its own affairs internally — from taxation to traffic regulation to electing its own leaders. A state also gets to raise an army and acquire weapons from abroad. In short, a Palestinian state, if possessing all the attributes of sovereignty, threatens the daily lives of Israelis.

The prime minister’s position highlights that people are throwing around the term “two-state solution” rather cavalierly. Netanyahu has thus “called the question” — for the Obama administration certainly, but also for the American Jewish community, particularly those at our political poles.

There are those on the Jewish right who, for religious or ideological reasons, do not believe a single square inch of what was historically biblical Israel ought to be relinquished to the Palestinians under any conditions. Netanyahu’s argument does not challenge their views.

Many on the Jewish right (and in the center), however, do not oppose — in principle — the creation of a Palestinian state in portions of Judea and Samaria, but they do believe that an autonomous Palestinian state will imperil Israel’s security and the lives of her citizens, especially if established anytime soon.

Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, as we well know, resulted in it becoming a launching pad for terrorist rockets aimed at innocent Israelis. One cannot accuse those who do not wish to see rockets similarly rain down from the Judean hills onto Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as being “anti-peace.” Those rightly concerned over such a sequel to the Gaza experience can reasonably demand more than mere assurances, but rather a track record demonstrating Palestinian will and ability to ensure Israel’s security.

But while those on the center- right might need to more explicitly enunciate their opposition to the “two-state solution,” in these temporal terms, the stronger challenge seems to be to those on the Jewish left — especially in the United States.

For it was the self-styled “pro-peace” organizations and pundits that pilloried the prime minister for his refusal to verbally embrace “the two-state solution.” But now they must explain: By their definition, when they urge this solution and insist the Obama administration press for it, do they dissent from the view that the Palestinian state be demilitarized and lack other sovereign powers?

Even Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who supports a two-state solution, accepted this logic at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee meeting a few weeks ago, when he said: “Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, only to face Hezbollah missiles. Israel withdrew from Gaza, only to face Hamas rockets. The Israelis are not about to let the same thing happen in the West Bank, and nor should they.”

If those of the Jewish left cannot concur on this, that begs the question: What kind of peace are they interested in for Israel?

But if, as I hope, they do agree that a “two-state solution” must not mean its literal definition, then we have stumbled onto a significant opportunity for unity in the American Jewish community. For while there will still be disagreements over critical details, the “pro-peace-process” left can join with the skeptical center-right in a clear message of unified support for a substantive result and, moreover, support the current prime minister of Israel’s stated goal of assuring that any result from negotiations guarantees Israel’s security, peace and Jewish character.

As Obama noted in his Oval Office statement, Israel is currently “confronted with as many important decisions about the [state’s] long-term strategic interests… as any… that we’ve seen in a very long time.” American Jewry must rally to a common message and common purpose to support Israel so that the Jewish homeland will make wise decisions and endure.

Nathan J. Diament is director of public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • How did Tariq Abu Khdeir go from fun-loving Palestinian-American teen to international icon in just a few short weeks? http://jd.fo/d4kkV
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.