Yossi Ben Ari

Foretold: This is how the independent State of Palestine gets founded

In a scenario from the not-at-all-distant future, the White House lets Netanyahu know that the train has already left the station
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, January 9, 2024. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, meets US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, January 9, 2024. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 6:29 a.m. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cell phone vibrated continuously. A bleary-eyed Bibi barked an impatient “Hello” but immediately pulled himself together: Jack Lew was on the line, the American ambassador to Israel, who informed him that Secretary of State Blinken was on his way to Israel and was expected to land in four hours, at 10:30. He said unambiguously that Blinken “requested” the prime minister make time to meet with him at 11:30 because he was bringing a very important personal communiqué from President Biden.

That was all Bibi needed. The events of the past two days, Memorial Day for the IDF fallen and Independence Day, had been horrible for him. At the memorial ceremony on Mount Herzl, he was received with curses and barrages of rotten vegetables from the bereaved families of the Operation Iron Swords victims, and there was no way to control them. The few ministers who dared to show their faces were blocked at the entrances to military cemeteries and prevented from participating in the memorial service. Israel’s diplomatic staff voted with their feet and boycotted the torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl, whose empty stands said it all to those who nevertheless had the pleasure of watching the event on the large screen.

Twenty-three soldiers refused to shake hands at the ceremony for the 120 outstanding soldiers at the President’s House (their arrest immediately after was insufficient as far as he was concerned). The annual Bible Quiz was “postponed” because most of its participants from abroad did not come, and if one adds to that the events surrounding Minister Yoav Kisch’s initiative to curtail the Israel Prize ceremony, the reasons for Netanyahu’s depression were perfectly clear.

And as if that weren’t enough, the rallies and demonstrations in support of the hostages who were still held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip grew to tens of thousands of people who blocked the Ayalon Highway every Saturday evening. The ongoing bloodshed in the IDF’s fighting in Rafah had provoked severe public criticism since the beginning of May, and parents held mass demonstrations at the gates of the recruiting offices, refusing to allow their children to enlist in the IDF, whose brass didn’t know how to deal with the situation. Dozens more houses in most of the towns and villages along the Lebanese border had been destroyed by Hezbollah’s anti-tank missiles, while approximately one hundred thousand Upper Galilee residents were still refugees in their own country. Plus, terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria were escalating, and Mahmoud Abbas had disappeared “for health reasons,” which exacerbated the struggle for his succession.

Two hours later, Bibi was supposed to go to the headquarters of the 91st Division in Biranit for a meeting with the commanders in the northern arenas as part of what were apparently advanced preparations for a sweeping strategic military move against Hezbollah. After that, he was scheduled to meet with the heads of the local municipalities and councils in the Galilee, whose very short fuses had long since burned down to nothing, given the continuing war of attrition along the Lebanese border that had begun in October 2023.

He telephoned his chief of staff, instructed him to clear the day’s agenda, and scheduled an urgent meeting of the cabinet and the heads of the security and intelligence establishment to prepare for Blinken’s visit. The cabinet members were surprised by the unexpected meeting but, other than the usual threats by Ben Gvir and Smotrich to keep Bibi from speaking freely to Blinken, they and the security-intelligence heads contributed nothing to understanding what was happening.

As soon as the forum dispersed, Blinken and Lew walked briskly into Bibi’s office, and after a brief greeting, Blinken handed Bibi an envelope with the seal of the President of the United States stamped on it. He opened it, pulled out one gold-embossed page, and began reading it. After a few seconds, he lowered his head till his chin reached his chest. Sweat beaded his forehead. All he said was: “No way…” He handed the page to Blinken, who read it aloud:

“To the Prime Minister of Israel, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu,

“I find it necessary to inform you that in the recent consultations I held with the leaders of the democratic nations of the world, and in particular, given the unending war in the Gaza Strip, we have reached the unfortunate conclusion that after generations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which we follow closely, the two sides are unable to resolve the issue through dialogue. Therefore, we have decided unanimously to publish our shared policy, the essence of which is the advancement of the concept of “two states for two peoples” through a public announcement of our recognition of an independent Palestinian state. A declaration to that effect will be made in Parliament in London at 8:00 p.m. on June 2, 2024.

“I am of course aware of your policy regarding the Palestinian issue, including its confirmation by the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem on February 21, opposing the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Nevertheless, we, the leaders of the free world, reserve the right to fashion independent policy for the benefit of world peace, the Middle East, and especially the Israeli-Palestinian arena.

“This important declarative event will also be attended by carefully selected representatives of the Palestinian Authority, the leaders of the Arab world, including Egypt, Jordan, the countries of the Persian Gulf that have peace agreements with Israel (the Abraham Accords), and Saudi Arabia, which considers Israel’s acceptance, in principle, of the Arab-Saudi peace initiative as a basis for establishing diplomatic relations, and for a regional Middle East Israeli-Arab arrangement, which is everyone’s ultimate goal.

“We regard this event as a historic change in the free world’s attitude to the Israeli-Palestinian arena, and a necessary basis for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip after its terrible destruction in the wake of the war, which unfortunately has not yet ended. We will mobilize for this mission with all our strength, and preserve Israel’s security so it will no longer be threatened by the Gaza Strip or anywhere else.

“Therefore, I am honored to invite you to participate in this occasion marking a necessary, well-deserved historic change for the State of Israel, and for you to stake out your legacy as the Israeli leader who led his people to a lasting, viable peace.

“I would be very happy if you’d attend,

“Sincerely, Joseph (Joe) Biden, President of the United States of America”

Gray-faced and with a weak voice, Netanyahu again mumbled, “No way…” Lew and Blinken rose to their feet. Holding the doorknob before opening the door, the Secretary of State said: “Bibi, the train is in motion, it won’t stop. You decide whether to get on it or stay behind…”.

About the Author
Brigadier General (Retired) Dr. Yossi Ben Ari was a chief instructor at the National Security College and a senior member of the intelligence community