columnIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Biden’s dangerous Palestinian state fantasy

Under pressure from his party’s left wing, the president is justifying support for Israel’s war on Hamas by reviving the two-state myth. It’s a prescription for another Oct. 7.

U.S. President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv on Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
U.S. President Joe Biden in Tel Aviv on Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
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.

Six weeks after the Hamas atrocities of Oct. 7, the Biden administration is still sticking to a policy of support for Israel’s war to eliminate the terrorist threat in the Gaza Strip. Contrary to the expectations of many observers, both President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have not wavered in their support not just for Israel’s theoretical right of self-defense but for its campaign against Hamas.

At the same time, they’re also dealing with almost unbearable pressure from members of their own party who disagree with them about their support for Israel and the desire on the part of almost everyone on the left to impose a ceasefire on the conflict. That would essentially allow Hamas to get away with mass murder. This is more than a momentary kerfuffle with the party base. As much of the liberal corporate mainstream media has continually reminded them in the past few weeks, this could materially damage the president’s re-election chances. As a result, they’ve been flailing about trying to grandstand to the Democrats’ left-wing base that they haven’t abandoned the discredited visions of Middle East peace that previous administrations have promoted in the past.

That is the context for the president’s statement this week saying the aftermath of the fighting must result in the creation of a “real” Palestinian state alongside Israel. It seems to echo the Middle East peace prescriptions being offered by the administration’s favorite columnist, The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, who, despite being as consistently wrong about every conceivable foreign-policy issue as Biden has been over the years, retains both his prestigious perch and the ear of decision-makers. Friedman has been urging Biden to lay down the law to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and insist that the price of continued U.S. support is the Jewish state’s acquiescence to an American diktat for a post-Gaza war two-state solution.

Biden’s political problems

That Biden is talking this way is a function of his political problems as much as anything else.

His support for Israel has been qualified by constant virtue signaling about avoiding civilian casualties in Gaza—advice that the Israel Defense Forces, which is looked to as a model for its practices in that regard by the U.S. military, doesn’t need. And while the administration’s pressure for “humanitarian pauses” and resumptions of fuel shipments into areas still controlled by Hamas is intended to help save lives, it’s equally true that these interruptions prolong the conflict by giving the terrorists a respite from the IDF’s efforts to root them out of the tunnels where they are hiding behind their human shields.

Still, Biden’s refusal to abandon Israel and to try to force an end to the campaign against Hamas is something of a surprise, especially to the Democratic Party’s liberal base, which is furious at him about this. The full-scale revolts among lower-level staffers throughout the administration, as well as among those who work for congressional Democrats, are just one indication of the way younger members of his party have embraced intersectional lies about Israel. They have exhibited a clear predilection to take the side of the Palestinians and Hamas terrorists. This is being illustrated by the polls showing Biden’s shrinking support among younger and minority Democrats.

A generation of Democrats who has been raised on the lies—rooted in critical race theory—about Israel being a “white” colonial enterprise and an “apartheid state” isn’t interested in peace so much as they are in supporting the Palestinian “resistance.” So, Biden’s vision of a future Palestinian state is at least a gesture in the direction of where his party’s base would like to go.

Friedman’s proposal is also music to the ears of the Obama-administration alumni club that makes up Biden’s foreign-policy team and might help mollify, if not completely put out, the fires on the left that are causing the Democrats so much distress. Friedman’s claims that the only reason Netanyahu has stated that Jerusalem will have to retain security control in Gaza after the war is to reassure his right-wing allies in the same sort of facile reasoning about Israel that prevails in the foreign-policy establishment.

But both Biden and his muse aren’t just wrong about the future of Gaza or two states. They are completely out of touch with reality in a way that will make it easy for even a politically weak Netanyahu or any conceivable successor to say “no” to advice that is not so much ill-conceived as insane.

Repeating Sharon’s experiment

Whatever may follow the conclusion of the fighting in Gaza—and there’s no certainty about how long it will take for the IDF to complete its vital mission of destroying Hamas—some things are certain. Chief among them is that after the experience of allowing Gaza to be Jew-free, as well as a no-go zone for the Israeli military, there is no way that any Israeli government, no matter its political composition, will allow a repeat of the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s experiment in the summer of 2005 in which every soldier, settler and settlement was pulled out of the Strip.

Sharon and military strategists repeatedly assured Israelis that if the Palestinians were so foolish as to pass up the opportunity to use the withdrawal and the promised Western investment in the area to create an incubator for peace—and instead use it as a launching pad for terrorism—then the Jewish state would have no problem reversing the process. This was a catastrophic mistake in terms of its expectations about Palestinian intentions, international opinion and Israel’s ability to contain or create deterrence against Gaza-based terrorism.

Everyone knows what happened after Sharon betrayed his pledges to his Likud voters and carried out the very plan that he had opposed when running for re-election in 2003. Palestinian elections that were imposed by President George W. Bush during his naive democracy promotion crusade led to a victory by the Islamist terrorists of Hamas in 2006. The next year, they followed up that triumph with a bloody coup in which they seized control of Gaza while the corrupt Fatah Party led by Yasser Arafat’s successor—Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas—continued to govern the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria.

For 16 years, Israel tried to live with the Hamas government in Gaza, where it ruled what was for all intents and purposes an independent Palestinian state in all but name. The missile fire that made life hell for southern Israel, and eventually for much of the rest of the country whenever Hamas and its Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist rivals chose to start a round of fighting, proved a problem Jerusalem could never solve. Nor could it do anything about the ability of Iran to prop up its Gaza proxy. Israel also could not find a way to prevent the billions in “humanitarian aid” that poured into the coastal enclave from funding the building of Hamas’s tunnel system that fortified the strip against attack. Repeated campaigns that the military called “mowing the grass” failed to establish the deterrence that the Israeli security establishment—as well as Netanyahu and his political rivals—were sure they could establish.

This problem culminated in the disaster of Oct. 7 and the sickening Hamas atrocities that left more than 1,200 dead, thousands wounded and as many as 240 men, women and children dragged back into captivity in Gaza. While much of the world may not have been outraged by the appalling crimes committed by the Palestinians that day which included gang rape, torture and the murder of entire families, the Jewish people will never forget the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust.

The notion that Israelis can be sold on allowing Gaza to return to being a terrorist bastion is a non-starter. But the conceit of the Biden peace plan as envisaged by Friedman and the rest of the “wise men” who have been promoting two-state solutions for the last 30 years is even crazier than that. What it amounts to is a demand that Israel repeat Sharon’s Gaza blunder in the far larger and more strategic West Bank, and even part of Jerusalem.

A peace based on the ideas of partition, coexistence and mutual respect, in which both Jews and Arabs would have sovereignty over part of the small country that they share, has been at the heart of every plan to solve the conflict since the 1930s. Yet all have failed, despite the Jewish acceptance of this concept because the majority of Palestinian Arabs have never been interested in any of it. That’s why they rejected the “Arab state” in Palestine that the United Nations voted for in 1947, in addition to repeated Israeli offers of an independent state over the course of the last quarter century.

Palestinian opinion hasn’t changed

It may be hard for many in the West and for liberal Jews to accept, but the incontrovertible evidence of the last century of history has shown that Palestinian nationalism is inextricably tied to a war on Zionism that will not allow any of their leaders to accept even the most favorable two-state solution. The reason is because it involves their having to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state. That is something that generations of Palestinians have refused to do, no matter where the borders of that Jewish state might be drawn.

Nor have the events of the last six weeks changed any of that. Biden and Friedman’s plans are predicated on an almost religious belief that the Palestinians want peace even though they have rejected it at every point in the last century. It is also a matter of faith in the administration that most Palestinians have nothing to do with Hamas. Yet as a new poll conducted by the Arab World for Research and Development has shown, the residents of the West Bank still support Hamas, even after its atrocities and the calamities it has brought down on its own people. Slightly more than three-quarters of them have a positive view of Hamas, and approximately the same number approve of the terrorist crimes committed on Oct. 7. If Abbas has refused to hold another election in the West Bank since 2005, it is because he believes that Hamas will win. And that belief is backed up by this and virtually every other poll of Palestinian opinion.

Common sense dictates that there is no alternative to Israeli security control in Gaza. Alternatives such as a joint force put together by the Arab nations is a fantasy, as those countries understandably want no part of having to deal with the Palestinians and their intransigent refusal to give up their dream of eradicating Israel. Nor is the United States or any Western nation going to go down that rabbit hole. The only choices are a return to the pre-Oct. 6 situation in which the terrorists run Gaza and have free reign to make good on their promises to repeat their Oct. 7 carnage again and again, or Israeli control.

That might not be what Biden, the foreign-policy establishment and the corporate media that has helped mainstream antisemitism or international opinion want to hear. But it’s the stark truth.

Sadly, there is no “solution” to the conflict between Jews and Arabs over the tiny strip of land between “the river and the sea.” As long as the Arabs are behind Hamas’s mad genocidal war to eliminate Israel, the only answer for the Jewish state is to be strong, defend itself and await a future in which a sea change in Palestinian political culture that will lead them to give up their dream of a Jew-free Palestine achieved by a second Holocaust. Anyone who cares about avoiding more terrorist atrocities and wars must stand behind Israel and against the dangerous delusions of a two-state solution.

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

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