How do I love thee?

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth (of the Mediterranean gas fields) and breadth (of the Occupied Territories) and (Golan) height(s).

Poetry fans might recognize this as coming from the pen of Elizabeth Barret Browning, but this version came from President Joe Biden on his recent visit to Israel. For those in Israel or America who questioned whether this President truly loves Israel, whether he feels it “in his kishkes,” this trip should have put all of that to rest. As is well documented, this was Biden’s tenth visit to Israel, with his first coming before the Yom Kippur War in 1973. And of course, he has known every Israeli Prime Minister since Golda. Biden made this trip to remind Israelis, and perhaps some American voters, of his long-time friendship with Israel and his deep belief in the unbreakable bond between our two nations. With that goal in mind, the trip was clearly a great success.

Israeli and American commentators remarked that Biden’s warm embrace of Israel felt like a “throwback to the 1990s.” But the 1990s are long gone and “The Biden hug,” while effective, is not what is needed now.

At the same time that President Biden was in Israel, the government was in the process of expelling 1,000 Palestinians, men, women, and children, from their homes in Masafer Yatta. In Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Walaja families and whole communities are struggling to hold on to their homes, being pushed out by settlers and the apparatus of the state. And the Abu Akleh family was still mourning the death of their daughter Shireen, an American citizen killed by an Israeli soldier.

In Bethlehem, President Biden spoke of his belief in the Two-State Solution and the importance of achieving “equal measure of security, prosperity, freedom, and democracy for the Palestinians as well as Israelis.” I do not doubt the sincerity of his belief, but the actions and absences of this trip  fail to live up to the rhetoric. In far too many cases, the Biden administration has continued the previous president’s harmful and one-sided policies. They have failed to live up to their campaign promises, including reopening the Jerusalem Consulate for Palestinians, and are instead moving forward with plans to build a new Embassy on land that was confiscated from Palestinian families. They have left unchanged the Pompeo rule on labeling settlement goods, effectively erasing the Green Line. And while Israel got the Jerusalem Declaration, further codifying the “special relationship” between the two nations, where was the Palestinian Jerusalem Declaration?

The Administration announced $100 million in aid to the East Jerusalem hospital network. This is important and will undoubtedly save lives. But aid, and a small amount when compared to what Israel is given annually, is not a political horizon. Aid is not an end to the Occupation. Aid is not national sovereignty. And aid does not end the conflict which has loomed over generations of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

President Biden proudly touts his support for a Two-State Solution. But that is not enough. The President needs to remind people what that means, to say out loud that in a Two-State Solution, one of those states is Palestine. And that to implement a Two-State Solution you need to end the Occupation. To do so, you need fewer, not more settlements. US policy is clear. It supports a Two-State Solution and it opposes settlements and settlement expansion. President Biden should have made clear that the United States will not support settlements or the further entrenchment of the Occupation.

Israel is an independent and democratic country, at least within the Green Line. No one should question that it can make its own decisions. But so can the United States. And it’s time for the US to decide that it will no longer support endless Occupation.

If President Biden truly cares about creating a better future for both Israel and Palestine, now is not the time for hugs and flowery resolutions. Now is the time for honesty and leadership. This first trip is over. That opportunity was missed. And the Occupation remains unchanged.

Mr. President, it’s time to not only say Two-State Solution, but to do something about it.

About the Author
Hadar Susskind is the President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now. Prior to APN, Hadar served in senior leadership roles at Bend the Arc Jewish Action, J Street, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs as well as the Council on Foundations and the Tides Foundation.

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