The Biden administration’s dogged focus on creating a Palestinian state is “obtuse” and “delusional,” according to experts who spoke with JNS.
Their comments came after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s call last week for a “concrete, time-bound, irreversible path to a Palestinian state” during his visit to the Middle East.
Jason Greenblatt, former White House Envoy to the Middle East and author of the widely acclaimed book “In the Path of Abraham” about the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the Abraham Accords, said that for Blinken to be so obsessed with the two-state solution is “very dangerous.”
“It’s completely tone-deaf to talk about things like this at the moment after Oct. 7,” he said. “It’s not only a waste of time, it makes absolutely no sense.”
It’s “shocking that a U.S. administration under ordinary circumstances, let alone after Oct. 7, would push for that,” he added.
Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies, also called out the international community’s obsession with the two-state solution, saying that the United States, United Kingdom and other Europeans “have failed to read the room in the aftermath of Oct. 7.”
This is “not the time to ask Israelis to make painful sacrifices,” he told JNS.
“It just is not where the Israeli population is right now and it really strikes me as obtuse that the Europeans, United States and United Kingdom are pushing this line,” he said.
According to John Hannah, a Randi and Charles Wax Senior Fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) in Washington, anyone advocating on behalf of recognizing or creating a Palestinian state in the near future is “delusional.”
“It reflects a total absence of understanding, not only of the impact of Oct. 7 on Israel, but of power politics, the Palestinian situation, and—most importantly—U.S. national interests,” he told JNS.
Hannah said that Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s message at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January “should ring loudly in every Western liberal’s ears.” Herzog had said that after Oct. 7, “no Israeli in their right mind is thinking of a Palestinian state.”
According to Hannah, movement toward creating a Palestinian state now “would be seen throughout the Middle East and Islamic world as a huge victory for the Iranian Axis of Resistance.”
Pushing for a Palestinian state now “would serve as the most powerful form of confirmation that the Iranian strategy of violence, chaos and genocidal terrorism is the only path to vindicating the rights of Muslims,” he said.
“It would be a huge gift to the worst enemies of America and the West,” he added.
Blinken further infuriated Israelis in a press conference in Tel Aviv on Feb. 7, when he accused Israel of dehumanizing the Palestinians. He said that while Hamas dehumanized Israelis on Oct. 7, and the hostages have been dehumanized every day since, “that cannot be a license to dehumanize others.”
Greenblatt said he had been extremely complimentary regarding the Biden administration, including Blinken, until recently, following these remarks.
“The statements were shameful,” he said. “Israel is not dehumanizing Palestinians…. Those words were absolutely terrible for him to use and it plays into some of the world’s attacks on Israel about genocide,” said Greenblatt.
“It’s shocking actually that he chose to use those words,” he added.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren commended the administration for its ongoing assistance, but condemned Blinken’s comments as well.
“You cannot, as our ultimate ally and as the defender of the free world, come out and accuse Israel of acting inhumanely toward the Palestinians,” he told JNS. “It’s unfair, it’s libelous and it’s inaccurate. It’s simply untrue.”
On Feb. 8, Oren tweeted: “When Secretary of State Blinken accuses Israel—inaccurately, unfairly, and libelously—of dehumanizing Palestinians, he dehumanizes us and contributes to the delegitimization of Israel and the demonization of Jews worldwide…Dehumanizing us endangers our security and possibly our existence.”
Essentially, he told JNS, “It’s…telling the world we are guilty of war crimes. It’s telling all the protesters out there that ‘we agree with you.’”
With regard to a Palestinian state, Oren told JNS he believes at the moment it “has no chance of success.”
“The Palestinians hold the world record for a people who have turned down a two-state solution,” he said, noting they’ve done so “mostly with violence” in 1937, 1947, 2000, 2001 and 2008.
“Now you have a sizable majority of Israelis who understand this is an existential threat,” he said.
In his remarks in Tel Aviv, Blinken said, “The overwhelming majority of people in Gaza had nothing to do with the attacks of Oct. 7, and the families in Gaza…are just like our families. They’re mothers and fathers, sons and daughters—[they] want to earn a decent living, send their kids to school, have a normal life. That’s who they are; that’s what they want.”
But a Dec. 2023 poll published by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) suggests otherwise.
The poll found that nearly 75% of Palestinians (82% in the West Bank and 57% in the Gaza Strip) believe Hamas’s atrocities were justified.
The poll also found that less than half of Palestinians want a two-state solution, while a majority want a terrorist, Marwhan Barghouti, as their next leader to succeed Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas.
Greenblatt was recently in Israel, where he went on a tour of the southern community of Kfar Aza, arranged with the World Jewish Congress, together with Samer Sinijlawi, a Palestinian political activist and commentator from eastern Jerusalem.
Referring to the PSR poll, Sinijlawi said he had spoken with Palestinian students and asked them directly, “Do you support killing Israeli babies, women and civilians?”
“They said ‘no,’” said Sinijlawi.
“Our national interest should be built on Israeli security,” he said. “If we cannot provide the needs for Israelis to feel secure, we will not be able to progress and develop ourselves,” he said.
In addition to the renewed push for a Palestinian state, the Biden administration appears to have returned to the old, failed linkage paradigm that says Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians is the core conflict in the Middle East and any peace agreements with other countries must be accompanied by the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The Trump administration changed this paradigm and achieved four normalization agreements, between Israel and Bahrain, Morocco, United Arab Emirates and Sudan, in effect decoupling the Palestinians from the larger Arab-Israeli conflict.
But now the Biden administration appears to be returning to the old, failed paradigm and recreating that linkage, tying any normalization with Saudi Arabia to the creation of a Palestinian state.
For instance, Blinken said that normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia would involve a “necessary Palestinian component.”
Blinken emphasized that “the path forward for Israel and for the entire region with integration, with normalization” must include an “irreversible” and “clear, credible, time-bound path to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Oren agreed that the administration’s position is a return to linkage, that it believes “somehow, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core conflict in the Middle East.”
He suggested that lurking behind this linkage is something “very dark.”
“For centuries, Jews were blamed for the world’s problems,” he said. “If there is a conflict in the Middle East, it must be the Jews. What are they saying? The Jews are the problem,” he added.
According to Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israel relations at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, there are three reasons for the U.S. obsession with a Palestinian state.
He told JNS it is a combination of “a long-term wrong concept of how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this vision of Israeli peace with Saudi Arabia, and the upcoming U.S. presidential elections.”
Greenblatt seemed to agree, noting that “We are starting to see a shift partly, if not largely, because of [U.S.] politics and the political reality.”
He suggested the Biden administration is “trying to show the world that they’re saying the right words,” and “ignoring reality, either for political purposes or some other reason.”
However, he said, “it’s an exercise in futility to go down the path that they’re going.”
“Biden continues to stand by Israel, but at the same time is saying things that range from unhelpful to very harmful and I hope he pivots back to where he should be, which is unequivocal support for Israel,” he said.