Peter Beinart, the enfant terrible of Zionism, is at it again.
The darling of the progressive left has long been an ardent advocate of the “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but in a jaw-dropping recent op-ed in The New York Times, with the click-bait title “I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State,” calls for abandoning it in favor of the more extreme “one-state solution.” As JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin acutely observes, “that state is not Israel.”
Instead, Beinart proposes dismantling the 72-year-old State of Israel and replacing it with a hypothetical “Jewish-Palestinian binational state” in which he concedes Jews would be a minority. But he nevertheless insists, with a straight face, that the Jews would fare well in a democratic regime under their Muslim rulers.
Even Beinart realizes he has crossed a “red line” with his latest epiphany. In the longer version of his proposal (“Yavne: A Jewish Case for Equality in Israel-Palestine,” published in Jewish Currents), he acknowledges that:
“Questioning Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is … akin to spitting in the face of people I love and betraying institutions that give my life meaning and joy. Besides, Jewish statehood has long been precious to me, too. So I’ve respected certain red lines.”
No more. Beinart now has irrevocably crossed that line. His latest—and likely final—solution to the conflict has been greeted with glee by some and denounced by others as beyond the pale. (See here and here.)
Although the reaction to Beinart’s latest vision has been mixed, most reasonable people agree on one thing: it will never happen. That is because, for different reasons, it is totally unacceptable to both parties to the conflict. It might be a diverting thought experiment for Beinart and his fellow academicians on the Upper West Side, but it is totally divorced from reality to those who have skin in the game, i.e., the Palestinians and Israelis.
First, it fails to achieve or even acknowledge the Palestinians’ avowed goal of ethnically cleansing the Middle East of Jews. Second, the Israelis are not prepared, in the words of respected Israeli historian Daniel Gordis, “to commit national suicide.” In spite of the exaggerated influence Beinart imagines he wields, he simply lacks the power to force the parties to agree to a plan which directly contradicts their own national aspirations.
In the century-long struggle between the Arabs and Israelis, no Arab or Palestinian has ever publicly proposed or embraced a binational state for Arabs and Jews with equal citizenship. Quite the contrary, from the beginning, the Arabs have not even tried to hide their horrific goal: the elimination of Jews from the Holy Land.
The unceasing aspiration of the Arabs to eliminate Jews from the Middle East (rather than to live together in peace with them) is underscored by the fact that, following the 1948 War of Independence, in which Jordan illegally occupied the West Bank, Jews whose ancestors have lived in that land for thousands of years were expelled and the area was ethnically cleansed of all Jews. Hardly the actions of a people willing to consider a “diverse” binational state.
More recently, the Palestinians have objected to any and all Jewish “settlements” in the West Bank territory designated for a future Palestinian state under the two-state plan, precisely because they contemplate a state that is completely Judenrein (“free of Jews”). Again, not a good sign for a democratic binational state. Not to mention, of course, that Jews were ethnically cleansed from all Arab states following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
And, of course, any consideration of the Palestinians’ willingness to live in peace alongside their Jewish neighbors cannot overlook a century of unimaginable violence by Arabs against Jews, including kidnappings, hijackings, stonings, stabbings, shootings and suicide bombings. The Second Intifada (2000-2005) alone, which followed Yasser Arafat’s rejection at Camp David of Israel’s most generous offer for a two-state solution, took a toll of more than 1,000 Israeli civilian lives (the population equivalent of 50,000 American lives).
In neither Beinart’s 8,000-word screed in Jewish Currents nor in the condensed New York Times version does he even mention these long-standing and unchanged goals of the Palestinians. Beinart concedes that “the painful truth is that the project to which liberal Zionists like myself have devoted ourselves for decades—a state for Palestinians separated from a state for Jews—has failed,” but neglects to even mention once the role of Palestinian violence, ethnic cleansing and rejectionism in the failure of his life’s work.
So much for any chance that the Palestinians would accept Beinart’s binational Disneyland.
The other party to Beinart’s imaginary state, the Israelis, have even greater reason to reject his dangerous idea. Israel is a sovereign nation and is now 72 years old. Anshel Pfeffer, the Haaretz columnist, points out the obvious: “Israel as a reality is not going away.”
In order for Beinart’s plan to become a reality, the people of Israel would have to acquiesce to its implementation. Given the Palestinians’ undisputed history of violence against the Jewish people and their demonstrated lack of interest in living together in peace in the disputed territories, why would Israelis agree to dismantle their own democratic state and put themselves in the hands of those who have attempted to annihilate them for over a century?
Of course, they never would. Those who contemplate that Israel could be “forced” to do so, under international sanctions, as happened in South Africa, confuse two dissimilar situations and discount the price they demand of Israel’s six million Jews. (See here and here.)
In short, Beinart’s vision is not worthy of serious consideration. Even Beinart concedes that “today, two states and one equal state are both unrealistic.” Asking the central question, “would all this bring an integrated, democratic Israel-Palestine anytime soon,” Beinart honestly answers: “Of course not.”
So why would Beinart put forth such a preposterous proposal? By all accounts, Beinart is a smart man. Surely he knows all the facts set forth here, and more. Why then embark on this fanciful journey? Is he delusional, deranged, or merely duplicitous? I have no reason to believe he is any of those things.
Perhaps Beinart is actually more clever by half and proposes the ludicrous “one-state solution” in order to make the now nearly defunct “two-state solution” seem more acceptable by comparison. Indeed, that is precisely how the respected editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, reacted when Beinart first raised the idea of a “one-state solution.” At the time, Goldberg wrote: “I don’t believe a one-state solution is any sort of solution at all; Israel/Palestine will devolve quickly into civil war. The only solution is a two-state solution.” Perhaps, just perhaps, that has been Beinart’s endgame all along.
In any event, at the end of the day, Gordis gets it right: “My bet is that Israelis will continue to build the society that is the largest, culturally richest, most intellectually dynamic Jewish community anywhere in the world, and that we’ll still be at it long after Peter Beinart has been entirely forgotten.”
Steve Frank is retired after a 30-year career as an appellate lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. His writings on Israel, the law and architecture have appeared in publications such as “The Washington Post,” “The Chicago Tribune,” “The Baltimore Sun,” “The Jerusalem Post,” “The Times of Israel” and “Moment” magazine.