As an American Jew who lived in Jerusalem for two years, including a weekly commute to Tel Aviv University as Fulbright Professor of American History, I can hardly claim the outstanding credentials earned by Avi Gil. With his extensive experience in the Israeli government as a loyal acolyte of Shimon Peres, for whom he worked for nearly three decades as Chief of Staff, he was closely involved in negotiations that led to the (failed) Oslo Accords, when Israel partnered with the PLO for the peace that never happened – because Yasser Arafat had other things in mind.
That was fortunate for Israel, since its government seemed prepared to relinquish Biblical Judea and Samaria to clear the path for Palestinian statehood. Among its capitulations, Israel withdrew from 80% of Hebron, burial site of the Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs and capital of Israel during the early years of King David’s reign. Jews are now restricted to a tiny enclave in what has become a Palestinian city. But in a more positive role Gil was involved in negotiations for the peace treaty with Jordan.
Gil’s indictment of President Trump is unrelenting. The outgoing president “has significantly intensified the erosion of the liberal world order.” Ignoring the “Israeli occupation” (of Judea and Samaria, its Biblical homeland), he has diverted attention from “the Palestinian plight.” Indeed, Trump “hobbled the prospect of a two-state solution with his humiliating anti-Palestinian moves” – although, for decades, it has been Palestinians who repeatedly rejected that solution.
Gil eagerly anticipates a Biden administration that will be liberated from “Trump’s narcissistic, values-free style.” It will “renew ties and aid to the Palestinians,” while Israeli “annexation initiatives” for “Palestinian” land will be “off the table.” He may not know that nearly forty years ago, when Senator Biden told Prime Minister Menachem Begin that settlement expansion would undermine American foreign aid, the Israeli leader sharply replied: “We are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew . . . and you will not frighten me with threats,” adding, “You cannot annex your own homeland.”
Gil is apprehensive that “We are getting closer to the point of no return when it will no long be possible to divide the land” – relinquishing Biblical Judea and Samaria – between Israelis and Palestinians. His imagined “slide into a de facto bi-national state” has “led a significant number of Palestinians to lose faith in the feasibility of a two-state solution” – a “solution” that Palestinians have repeatedly rejected. And he seems disappointed that “recent years have enabled Israeli indifference to the possibility of an official Palestinian position claiming equal rights in one state” – as if any Israeli government, or its citizens, would ever consider that possibility.
For Gil, President-elect Biden – “a true friend of Israel” – will unravel what Trump has done (for Israel’s considerable benefit). Biden “must warn Israel without delay” that it cannot become “a non-democratic Jewish state” – as though that is a looming menace that requires American presidential prodding to discourage. Otherwise, Gil warns of “Jewish apartheid between the river and the sea” – as likely a prospect as democratic elections in Iran.
Gil’s doomsday scenario is a dark fantasy of the Israeli left. He remains silent about Trump’s achievements, making him the most generous president to Israel since Harry Truman recognized the fledgling Jewish state moments after David Ben-Gurion proclaimed its independence. Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and relocated the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, acknowledging it as Israel’s capitol. During his administration the United States finally cut off funding to UNRWA, which has long supported a Palestinian refugee scam that funds five million “refugees” who are their descendants but have never set foot in Palestine.
Biden has continued to criticize the “steady and systematic expansion of settlements,” while indicating in a television interview that he would not have recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol, as Trump did. Biden stated that it is “not possible to have a Jewish state in the Middle East without having a two-state solution.” Yet Israel seemed seems to have done just fine for seventy-two years without it.
Avi Gil is certainly entitled to his opinions. But they should not be confused with the reality of history.
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel; Brothers at War: Israel and the Tragedy of the Altalena; and Jewish State Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy