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OpinionU.S.-Israel Relations

Sabotaging the US-Israel love affair

The Biden administration’s renewed push for a two-state solution is both destructive and self-destructive.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo by Avi Ohayon/GPO.
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef
Douglas Altabef is chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at: dougaltabef@gmail.com.    

All marriages have their ups and downs. While not a marriage per se, America and Israel have enjoyed a decades-long love affair. On a people-to-people basis, that affection has been consistent. On a political level, there have been warm and cold periods.

Since the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty in the late 1970s, there has been a growing obsession in the West and the U.S. in particular with finding an ultimate solution to the Middle East conflict.

This obsession demonstrates that nations do not have allegiances or alliances so much as interests. America’s interest in pursuing peace has largely been driven by unrelated, sometimes totally extraneous considerations, rather than a realistic assessment of the situation.

The focus of U.S. efforts has long been the “two-state solution.” It was believed that, given there was already a Jewish state, there should then be a counterweight to Israel in the form of a Palestinian state.

To the lazy Western mind, this seemed self-evidently fair. Everyone would get what they need, if not exactly what they want. It worked in Northern Ireland, so why not in the Middle East?

The Western interest was motivated by the naïve belief that the imposition of a sovereign Palestinian state would bring about an end to the conflict.

The two-state advocates among the Western powers, however, have never shown any understanding of what is truly at the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This conflict has little to do with land because there was never a “Palestine” to be restored. It has nothing to do with the recapture of lost sovereignty because there never was any. There was never a Palestinian anything until the second half of the 20th century.

The root of the conflict has always been a combination of religious intolerance and a decades-old revenge fantasy.

For religious reasons, Muslims cannot accept any non-Muslim sovereignty on land previously conquered by Muslims. Once a land is Muslim, it must remain Muslim forever. Thus, a sovereign Jewish state in the Land of Israel is akin to blasphemy. To accept it is a violation of religious law.

The revenge fantasy seeks vengeance on Israel based on the claim that the Palestinians were expelled from Mandatory Palestine and their lands appropriated. Such a fantasy cannot give up on the dream of seizing back what was “taken” and destroying those who “stole” it.

This fantasy ignores the fact that a great many former residents of what is now Israel fled of their own accord and that they had arrived only in the early 20th century because of economic opportunities created by the Jewish community. Such facts are not permitted to interfere with an epic, endlessly repeated narrative.

Thanks to these two factors, the Palestinians consistently refused the two-state solution. They could not do otherwise. Accepting it would be a betrayal of Muslim doctrine and validation of the “theft” of the land. This meant a death sentence for any Palestinian leader who agreed to the two-state solution.

Unfortunately, the West never really understood this. It insisted that further concessions by Israel would inevitably lead to Palestinian acceptance.

Ironically, the idea that just one or two more concessions would produce peace only produced the mantra “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”—that there is not only no room for Israel but none for the Jews themselves. Genocide remains the object of Palestinian yearning.

Today, for reasons that would boggle the mind if not for an understanding of American electoral politics, the Biden administration has determined that now is the appropriate moment for a two-state solution.

After all, given that Hamas just massacred 1,200 Israelis, what better opportunity could there be to give Hamas everything it wants?

The fact that there isn’t even a minyan in Israel that would agree to this is considered irrelevant. If the obstinate Benjamin Netanyahu will not do the administration’s bidding, it’ll find a government that will. Failing that, the administration can just declare that it will unilaterally recognize a “State of Palestine.”

This would be stunningly destructive and even self-destructive. Certainly, it would destroy the U.S.-Israel alliance. Given that Israel will not agree to a Palestinian state, would recognition make Israel a hostile power invading “Palestine”? Would Western countries come to the aid of “Palestine” as they have to Ukraine? Will foreign troops be airlifted into eastern Jerusalem to secure it as the new capital of “Palestine”?

All of this sounds absurd because it is absurd. In a desperate effort to win reelection, the Biden administration could destroy an alliance that has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy and an expression of fundamental American values.

What would this say about America? To many people, including many Americans, it would seem like yet another manifestation of an America that has lost the plot and lost its connection to the values upon which it was founded.

For Israelis, even the possibility that this might happen is a reminder that, at the end of the day, we have no one to count on but ourselves. It should prompt a renewed drive for national self-sufficiency, especially in the realm of armaments.

Most importantly, it should remind Israel that it is obligated to oppose demands that might be well-meaning but are unquestionably destructive. The stakes are too high to do anything else, even in a love affair.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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