In its founding documents, Israel was imagined as a nation where social and political equality for all its inhabitants was paramount. Our Declaration of Independence envisioned a nation that enshrined true equality for all its people.
In my nearly 40 years of service in the Israeli Defense Forces, including most recently as the deputy chief of General Staff, this is the vision of Israel that I fought for. Now as a member of the Knesset and the governing coalition, I’m continuing that fight on the political battlefield, where the founding vision of Israel faces its most significant current threat.
Every day, right-wing forces in Israel — aided by right-wing forces in the United States — are trying to drag us further and further away from those values. In pursuit of permanent control over the entire West Bank and an ethno-nationalist vision of our Jewish state, they are dragging us into the abyss of inequality, injustice, annexation, and endless violence. In the process, they are not only demolishing homes, evicting families, and trampling Palestinian rights, but they are also putting the very future of our country as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people in peril.
To Israel’s closest friends in the United States, I want to say this: The best friends are not the ones who blindly support everything that you do. The best friends are not those who enable counterproductive or self-destructive behavior. Rather, they are those who are willing to push back against your worst impulses, to empower the better angels in your nature, and help you be the best version of yourself.
My nation needs a friend and ally like that right now.
That’s why I am so heartened by the recent introduction of the Two-State Solution Act in the US House of Representatives. Written by progressive Jewish congressman Andy Levin, a proud liberal Zionist, the new bill would do more than any previous legislation to put America’s support of Israel on a more balanced, stable, and sustainable path. No matter how far off or improbable a two-state solution might be at the moment, this bill is urgent today. It would look out for Israel’s security in both the short-term and long term, and would end the type of uncritical, irresponsible “support” — championed by President Trump and others — that only served to empower the settlement movement and allowed my country’s leaders to ignore some of our most serious and pressing security challenges.
The bill reaffirms bipartisan support for American military aid to Israel, while forcefully pushing back on the occupation and the settlement movement. It correctly declares settlements a violation of international law, rolls back a number of harmful Trump administration policies that aimed to erase the Green Line between Israel and the territories it occupies, and imposes end-use restrictions on aid so that it cannot be used to promote occupation, settlement expansion, or annexation. Each of these actions send a needed signal to Israel that we no longer have American approval for such counterproductive and dangerous policies.
We cannot claim to be a nation founded on the values of justice and equality while we continue to destroy Palestinian homes and exert suffocating control over their lives. And we cannot allow support for the beautiful and democratic nation of Israel to be confused with support for settlements, occupation and the right-wing’s dystopian vision of permanent injustice, militarism and violence.
As the former deputy chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, personally responsible for the safety and conduct of soldiers serving in the occupied territories, I’ve seen how the injustice and indignity of the occupation is unnecessarily endangering our own people and laying the foundation for the radicalization and violence that puts Israelis at risk every day. The Israeli government has sent generations of young Israelis off to put their lives on the line to enforce the unjust and defend the unlawful. We are much less safe because of it.
For years, as the far right has pulled Israel further and further away from the ideals upon which it was founded, the United States has not done enough to help push back, with Donald Trump’s administration actually taking actions to encourage our right-wing slide. Congressman Levin’s bill would change that by countering the dangerous impulses of the right-wing, and supporting those of us fighting for our vision of peace, justice and equality.
I have spent my life fighting for that founding vision of Israel and right now it is at peril more than ever before. That’s why we need help from an ally — one who is willing to go beyond blind approval of our actions, tell us when we’re being counterproductive and help us chart a new course. If the United States wants to be that ally, passing the Two-State Solution Act would be an important first step.