The repeatedly proposed remedy for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a “two-state solution,” with Arabs and Jews living side by side, happily ever after. But these magical words, as enticing as they may seem, are little more than fantasy. Its recent proponents, predictably in The New York Times (Dec. 21), are R. David Harden, a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama’s special envoy for Middle East peace, and Larry Garber, a former U.S. Agency for International Government mission director to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The United States, according to the title of their article, “Must Embrace Palestinian Statehood Now.”
Harden and Garber believe that it “would make diplomatic and political sense” for the United States to recognize a Palestinian state. That would “level the diplomatic playing field” and demonstrate to Palestinians that “the United States is finally matching its talk of peace with meaningful action.” By recognizing Palestinian statehood after a “75-year struggle for independence,” the United States “would confer national legitimacy on the Palestinian people” who, they anticipate, would celebrate their acceptance by “Israel’s closest ally.”
Nor is that all. Recognition of Palestinian statehood, they write, “would undercut Hamas’s ambitions to establish an Islamic state ‘from the river to the sea’—from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea—while strengthening the Palestinian Authority and supporting “those who are prepared to live in peace with Israel.” It would also “send a strong message of repudiation” to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose administration has “looked away from settler violence” and “damaged the prospects of a two-state solution,” which, to be sure, Palestinian leaders have relentlessly rejected.
Recognition, according to Harden and Garber, would strengthen support for U.S. President Joe Biden (who certainly needs it). They imagine that Americans who support Israel would “prod
their government into the realization that the only path to peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a two-state solution,” as though Israel is merely a clone of the United States, attendant to its demands.
It may be a compelling wish, but it is far from reality and realization.
To begin with, there already is a Palestinian state in a significant portion of historic Palestine, east of the Jordan River. Its name is Jordan, and Palestinians comprise more than half its population. The repetitive advocacy of a “two-state solution,” if implemented, would create a second Palestinian state, which is hardly necessary.
Nor is that all. Hamas leaders fantasize a Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank (biblical Judea and Samaria) and Jerusalem, effectively sandwiching Israel between Jordan and Gaza. It is unlikely that Israel would relinquish its biblical homeland and ancient capital city of Jerusalem to please Hamas.
Nor is it likely that Israeli policy will be determined by familiar critics in The New York Times, led by Thomas Friedman, who delights in telling Israel what it must (and must not) do to assure peace in the Middle East and permit the Jewish state to retain its moral integrity. It is time, he insists, for the United States “to tell Israel how to declare victory in Gaza and go home.” His definition of “victory” is a total withdrawal from Gaza in return for all Israeli hostages and a “permanent ceasefire” (as though Hamas can be trusted to obey it). His plan is not likely to be embraced by Israel, especially after a Hamas leader declared that “we want to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.” So much for Friedman’s fantasy.
American support for a Jewish state confined within its pre-1967 borders, without biblical Judea and Samaria, may please the Times. But Harden, Garber and Friedman are not likely to persuade Israel to relinquish its ancient homeland to satisfy their fantasy of a peaceful Hamas.