Israelis just voted against the two state solution
Exit polls and early results from Monday’s Israeli election predicted a reprise of the first of three elections that began last April: a victory for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his bloc of right-wing, nationalist, and religious parties.
Unlike in September’s vote, when Netanyahu finished a disappointing second and was not close to reaching the 61-seat majority needed to establish a coalition government, this time he is likely to be installed as prime minister in the coming weeks, barring an unlikely intervention by the High Court.
There should be no sugarcoating what happened. Israelis voted for a government led by an accused criminal who has spent the last year inciting against the country’s Arab minority and undermining its independent institutions, from the military chain of command to the law enforcement system he has slandered as being in the hands of his opponents.
What these results also represent is a staggering repudiation of the two-state solution from the majority of Israelis in favor of a vision in which the Palestinians live in permanent legal inferiority to their Israeli neighbors, despite both peoples living under the jurisdiction of the same authorities.
American Jews who believe the two-state solution is necessary for Israel to remain a democracy and a Jewish state thus have an important choice to make. Will they respect Israel’s right to commit moral suicide or will they do whatever it takes to stop a catastrophic annexation from happening?
Yesterday’s was not an election pitting the “peace camp” of the 1990s against Netanyahu, the longtime champion of the status quo. In this campaign, it was Benny Gantz and the opposition Blue and White party that represented the status quo by insisting that no annexation of occupied territory should take place without international and regional cooperation — a pragmatic poison pill that was overlooked by leftists denouncing Gantz as a cheap copy of Netanyahu.
Numerically, this was not an overwhelming win for the right. Netanyahu’s 2009 and 2015 election victories were deeper and more robust. If you had faith in Israel after previous rounds, there is no reason to relinquish it on the basis of these results alone.
Yet the right-wing government most likely to take shape won’t exist in a vacuum. For at least the next ten months, it will live alongside the Trump administration in Washington, which has committed itself to pursuing a plan that, if implemented, will see Israel annex 30% of the West Bank and the Palestinians relegated to sub-state cantons effectively controlled by Israel.
This plan is no longer just the delusions of Jared Kushner and David Friedman. There is now a “mapping committee” on the ground in the West Bank — made up of Americans and Israelis — to determine the future of land that by international laws and norms is not in the sovereign jurisdiction of either country.
Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel now at the Council on Foreign Relations, compared this to the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, in which several of the eventual victors of World War I — led by Britain and France – drew the post-Ottoman borders of the Middle East.
When a pillar of the U.S.-Israel alliance and the American foreign policy establishment like Ambassador Indyk begins warning of neo-colonialism, perhaps it’s time to stop assuming everything will be OK if we just wait it out. There is still time to halt the annexation train, but it won’t happen if we privilege relationships and connections over Israel’s future as a democracy.
First, we must work hard to defeat Donald Trump here in November. If Trump is re-elected, the U.S. position will be one which supports annexation and perpetual Israeli domination over the lives of Palestinians for at least the next four years — a period in which the two-state solution will not survive.
Even if a unity government is established between Likud and Blue and White in the coming weeks, the latter can’t be “less” pro-Israel than the U.S. government.
The Trump plan needs to be taken off the table, and it will if virtually any of the leading Democrats is elected (Michael Bloomberg, who is unlikely to be the nominee, has been less clear about this than his fellow candidates).
Defeating Trump is a necessary but not sufficient step to prevent annexation. Despite what we may sometimes think, not everything is in the hands of the American Jewish community and its establishment organizations.
However, it would surely help if we stopped looking to mitigate the consequences of Israel’s actions at every turn, sending the message that we are always willing to support Israel no matter what it becomes.
The next time an international body draws up a list of businesses operating in the settlements — the beating heart of what former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called the “cancer” that ends in an apartheid reality — perhaps we shouldn’t rush to Israel’s defense.
We need to take a long hard look at the Frankenstein Israel envisioned in the Trump Plan and ask ourselves if we’re willing to support that. If not, it’s time to wake up and realize this could be the future if the designs of annexationists are not thwarted in the coming months.
Abe Silberstein is a freelance commentator on Israeli politics and U.S.-Israel relations. His work has previously been published in the New York Times, Haaretz, +972 Magazine and the Forward.