columnIsrael at War

Biden needs to sober up about the Palestinians

The administration, and many who claim to back Israel, still favor a two-state solution the Palestinians don’t want. Unlike the Israelis, they’ve learned nothing from Oct. 7.

U.S. President Joe Biden on the South Lawn of the White House on June 22, 2023. Credit: Muhammad Aamir Sumsum/Shutterstock.
U.S. President Joe Biden on the South Lawn of the White House on June 22, 2023. Credit: Muhammad Aamir Sumsum/Shutterstock.
Jonathan S. Tobin. Photo by Tzipora Lifchitz.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

It’s a debate the Israeli government neither wants nor thinks it needs to engage in right now. But as much as Jerusalem would like to postpone any discussion about who will govern or be responsible for security in Gaza until the war with Hamas is finished, it’s increasingly becoming clear that is impossible. U.S. President Joe Biden is already pushing hard for the revival of a peace process that’s been dead in the water for more than two decades, as well as for Israel to accept that the eventual outcome of negotiations will be the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state alongside it.

That makes sense to a lot of people, including many American supporters of Israel, who still believe a two-state solution is the only rational solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. And in theory, two states for two peoples coexisting in peace does sound ideal.

But it’s time for Biden and anyone who wants the United States to use its enormous leverage over Israel to advance a two-state solution to sober up about the Palestinians. They must listen not so much to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but to the Israeli people themselves.

The president may believe that it’s a political necessity for him to force the Israelis to agree to this plan so that his administration is able to continue supporting the war against Hamas. And he may be right that many, if not most, Democrats want the increased “daylight” between the two nations over  the peace process that largely characterized U.S.-Israel relations when his former boss, Barack Obama, was sitting in the White House.

The collapse of the Israeli left

But as even The New York Times reported this week, in the aftermath of Oct. 7, the overwhelming majority of Israelis rejects any thought of a renewal of negotiations, let alone the imposition of a two-state solution.

That’s in spite of very low levels of confidence and support for Netanyahu after a year of political strife over judicial reform and failure to prevent the Hamas atrocities. Though the Israeli left that once dominated the country’s politics has been a shadow of itself since the the Oslo Accords collapsed in the bloodshed of the Second Intifada, remnants of those who advocated for more territorial retreats and Palestinian statehood are now completely discredited.

Indeed, as the Times noted, even people who considered themselves peace activists have finally drawn conclusions from a century of Palestinian hate and terrorism that culminated in the worst mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. They have realized that the conflict is impossible to resolve in the foreseeable future. The fact that many of the victims of the Hamas pogroms living in the border communities were ardent peace advocates and yet were still murdered, raped and kidnapped by the Palestinians made a deep impression on the Israeli people.

In rejecting the policies that created Oct. 7, Israelis aren’t merely showing their grief. They’re demonstrating common sense.

Yet Biden is doubling down on the two-state myth. The same is true for most of the international community, as well as the United Nations.

They’re terribly wrong—and not just because the Palestinians have rejected numerous two-state offers that would have given them independence over the course of the last 75 years.

At this point, there are only two reasons to revive the peace process. One is to give Biden some re-election campaign wiggle room with the majority of Democrats that favor the Palestinians over Israel. The other is to advance the cause of the Hamas terrorists who committed the Oct. 7 atrocities that launched the current war.

While the minority of Democrats, who know that Biden might be the last member of their party to sit in the White House who will have any sympathy for the Jewish state, think he deserves the help, anyone who cares more about Israel’s security and survival needs to understand that support for actions that ultimately aid those who share Hamas’s goal of destroying Israel is too high a price for Israel’s people to pay.

Biden’s problems

Contrary to the gloom and doom headlines about the latest polls in liberal outlets like the Times, Biden’s declining re-election prospects aren’t entirely the consequence of his decision to support the war against Hamas after Oct. 7.

He is currently trailing former President Donald Trump for many reasons, including the state of the economy, the collapse of security at America’s southern border, his age and widespread perception of his weakness as a leader.

But there is no question that Biden’s clear sympathy for Israel after Oct. 7 and his backing for the goal of destroying Hamas are costing him the support of left-wing Democrats. That’s especially true for young voters, who are more likely to have been indoctrinated in the toxic myths of critical race theory and intersectionality that falsely label Israel and the Jews as “white oppressors” of Palestinians. 

That’s despite the fact that the conflict has nothing to do with race, and that the majority of Israelis are themselves “people of color” since they trace their origins to the Middle East or North Africa.

Biden has undermined Israel’s military campaign against Hamas by buying into the false narrative that it conducts “indiscriminate” bombing of Palestinian civilians and pressuring the Jewish state to risk the lives of Israeli soldiers to avoid killing any of Hamas’s civilian human shields. The constant talk about pushing Israel to end the war prior to finishing the job of eliminating Hamas from all of Gaza is also stiffening the resistance of the terrorists, delaying the return of remaining hostages and actually leading to more loss of life.

But pressuring Israel to fight Hamas less effectively isn’t doing much to ameliorate Biden’s problems with leftists, who aren’t so much interested in two states as they are increasingly in supporting Hamas’s genocidal goals (“from the river to the sea”) or justifying terrorism against Jews (“globalize the intifada”).

Prior to Oct. 7, just about everyone in Israel was prepared to accept the status quo that left Hamas in control of Gaza. They now realize that those in the military and security establishment, who sold them and their political leaders on the idea that the Islamists could be deterred from launching a war, were disastrously wrong. 

Allowing Gaza to become a Hamas-ruled independent Palestinian state in all but name was a fatal mistake. Israelis already knew that the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to withdraw every soldier, settler and settlement from Gaza in the summer of 2005 was an error. The hope that it might be an incubator for peace—or at least a way to defuse the conflict—was proven wrong.

Instead, the billions in aid the Palestinians received from the international community were used to create a terrorist stronghold that led inevitably to both rocket and missile attacks on Israel and then mass slaughter and unspeakable atrocities.

What Israelis understand, and Biden and most Americans refuse to accept, is that a diplomatic solution that would place Gaza under the role of the Palestinian Authority will simply be a formula for more terrorism. Even worse, should the Americans and the international community succeed in forcing the Israelis to accept a two-state deal removing Israeli forces from Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), that would just repeat Sharon’s catastrophic Gaza experiment on a much larger scale.

As the most recent polls conducted by Palestinian analysts show, more than three-quarters of Palestinians support the Oct. 7 attacks. That is shocking but it is easier to understand when you remember that the majority of Palestinians—as well as their supposedly “moderate” leaders—have always rejected peace and an independent state if it meant accepting the legitimacy of a Jewish state, irrespective of its borders. 

They share Hamas’s goal of destroying Israel and slaughtering its people because their national identity is inextricably tied up with their century-old war on Zionism.

The choice is security or Hamas

It’s hard for those who believe in the two-state solution as something akin to a religion rather than a policy proposal to accept that aspect of the Palestinian national identity.

And it’s equally difficult to accept for politicians like Biden, who has spent his career advocating for a two-state solution. But if he is now in a minority in his own party about Israel, it’s because the “progressives,” who advocate for the woke diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) catechism, are likelier to support the Palestinians than Israel.

The further he goes to appease them, the more it strengthens the will of the Palestinians to continue their quest for Israel’s destruction. As with every previous attempt to impose a peace process on Israel, the only thing that will be achieved will be more terrorism and more Israeli bloodshed.

After Oct. 7, it’s time for even liberal American Jews to say “enough” to this farce.

Those who purport to be friends of the Jewish state must speak up and support not so much Netanyahu or the members of his unity coalition but the Israeli people’s will. It’s important for those in the pro-Israel community to not just respect the opinion of the overwhelming majority of Israelis but to back it up with political advocacy, even if it’s not what Biden wants.

The choice isn’t between Netanyahu and peace. It’s between Israeli security and Hamas’s vision of endless war, which most Palestinians support.

Anyone with a shred of sense or even the most minimal knowledge of Palestinian politics knows that another two-state push will fail. But if you care about preventing more Oct. 7 slaughter, then you need to respect the sensible desire of the Israelis to defend themselves and give up on fantasies about the Palestinians choosing peace.

The only way Palestinians will ever come to their senses will be after the complete defeat of Hamas. It will also require the Arab and Muslim worlds, in addition to the international community, to cease propping up a national movement—whether led by Hamas or Fatah “moderates”—whose ultimate aim is wiping out the one Jewish state on the planet and killing its people. That is exactly what a return to two-state diplomacy won’t do.

Most Americans continue to support Israel. But friends of Israel must not betray that stand by advocating for two-state diplomacy that Israelis deem to be not merely ill-advised but insane. Like the Israelis, Americans must draw conclusions from Oct. 7 and oppose giving the Palestinians the chance to do it again.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him: @jonathans_tobin.

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