David Bernstein
Free speech proponent in the Jewish world

Support for a two state solution does not mean peace now

American Jewish leaders want a Palestinian state, but see clearly the looming dangers

Last week, Times of Israel editor David Horovitz wrote a bombshell of an editorial on a bombshell of a speech given by Prime Minister Netanyahu indicating that the Prime Minister opposes the creation of a fully sovereign Palestinian state, at least under present circumstances.

“There cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan,” stated Netanyahu. Horovitz interpreted the speech to mean that Netanyahu “wasn’t saying that he doesn’t support a two-state solution. He was saying that it’s impossible.”

Peter Beinart, long critical of Netanyahu’s inaction in negotiating a two state solution, pounced on the Prime Minister’s words, arguing in the pages of Ha’aretz that not only has Netanyahu finally come clean on his opposition to a two state solution, but that by virtue of its silence to Netanyahu’s public about face on two states, the “American Jewish establishment” has revealed its own clandestine disapproval. Beinart stated that “were American Jewish groups to admit that neither they, nor Netanyahu, really support the two state solution, they would find it harder to brand Palestinian activists as anti-Semitic because they oppose the two-state solution too.”

Beinart goes on to explain that “the argument for the two state solution…has always been that once Palestinians gained the rights and dignity that came with a state, their government would have a strong incentive to keep Hamas and other militants from imperiling that state by using it as a launching pad for attacks on Israel.”

“One can dispute this logic,” he asserts, “but it is no less persuasive this week than it was last week.”

I strongly support a two state solution, but do, in fact, “dispute this logic.” We are witnessing massive upheaval in the Arab world. What began with the promise of an Arab spring for democracy has turned into an Islamist extremist onslaught. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, among others, are immediately imperiled by the rising tide of extremist forces that have exploited the tumult of social change as a vehicle for rising to power. Under such conditions, how can anyone be unfailingly confident that a moderate Palestinian state would fare any better than these much better established regimes?

If a Palestinian state were created in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, there’s a reasonably high possibility that it would cave to Hamas or some other Islamic extremist group in a matter of months or a few years, turn into another Gaza and a launching pad for terrorism and rockets, and make the middle of the country a living hell. There’s also a decent possibility that it would, in fact, stand the test of time and provide Israel a lasting peace.

Acknowledging these very real risks and even deferring to the current Israeli government does not signal opposition to the principle of Palestinian self-determination or a two state solution. Support for a two state solution need not mean belief that the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state would bring certain peace, but rather can mean belief that two states is the only option that provides the possibility of a real solution to the conflict. A one-state “solution” would lead to Israel’s ultimate dismantlement. Permanent occupation may, over time, lead to Israel’s isolation and demographic demise.

While I would prefer, considering the risks of inaction, that the Israeli government do everything it can to achieve such a two state solution sooner rather than later, I don’t believe that the current government’s failure to move aggressively in this direction constitutes a grave and obvious violation of Israel’s national interests or Palestinian rights. The risks of such a solution under present circumstances are just too high. The government’s disinclination may be right and my eagerness may be wrong.

Support for a two state solution means for me and many others that we firmly believe Israel should aspire to such a solution in the long run even if the Israeli government deems it too risky in the present. As dangerous as the status quo is, we are willing to wait for either conditions to change in the Arab world, a new Israeli government, or both. In the face of so much derision and smug certainties, we can publicly support an Israel that may be wrong—or right.

Peace—but perhaps not peace now.

About the Author
David Bernstein is the founder of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values and is a former CEO of Jewish advocacy organizations. He is author of the Woke Antisemitism: How a Progressive Ideology Harms Jews ( Follow him on Twitter @DavidLBernstein