On a Palestinian Arab state and the Obama administration’s commitment to Israel

The fight over Israel’s lack of support for the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state has led to a schism with the American government.

April 13, 2015 22:18
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. . (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The recent Israeli election was a landslide victory for the Right. The numbers are really quite staggering, and even more stunning if one separates out the Jewish and Arab votes.

The final results showed that nearly 11 percent of the voters were Arab, and 86% of those votes went to the newly reformulated Joint Arab List party. Of the remaining 89% virtually all-Jewish vote, over 60% went to parties that identified with the Right or Right-leaning and/or religious parties. In that final analysis, among Jewish voters, the vote was an impressive and overwhelming rejection of the Left, a calculation that concedes Yesh Atid to be to the Left, based on its announcement that it would not support Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister.

It should be noted that the Knesset seat numbers would have been even more lopsidededly to the Right if the Yachad Party had passed the new Knesset threshold, which it missed by less than 10%.

The fight over Israel’s lack of support for the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state has led to a schism with the American government, ironically one which has seen evidence of an extraordinary erosion of support for President Barack Obama in the US Jewish community. And in Israel as well. As a nation, Israelis tend to agree with Netanyahu – that the establishment of a Palestinian state, while the Middle East is in turmoil – is just not feasible at this time. Of the Jewish-Israeli electorate, only Meretz advocated a land for peace solution, and it received around 4% of the Jewish vote.

In a public question-and-answer session one month prior to the elections, the Zionist Union’s Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni were quizzed by me as to whether they really believed in land for peace.

Neither could say yes. When asked how they could favor the creation of a contiguous Palestinian Arab state with a unified Hamas and Fatah leadership that would inevitably allow missiles from Gaza into Judea and Samaria, they responded that they would not sign a “bad” agreement, and yet, suggested nonetheless that Israel should give up land for demographic reasons. Interestingly, they did not argue that it would bring peace.

There is, of course, a history. Israel tried land for peace with Oslo, and it failed. And it tried land even without peace with its unilateral disengagement from Gaza, and that failed as well. The Left now argues “demographics” – an argument that has no validity because Israel has already withdrawn from the major Arab population centers of Judea and Samaria. Because only 100,000 Arabs live in Area C of Judea and Samaria, clearly, there is no “demographic” need to withdraw from these areas.

Despite the lessons of this recent history and the fiasco of disengagement, one can posit that it was shocking to hear some in Israel advocating another unilateral withdrawal. Such a withdrawal, like that which occurred with Oslo and the disengagement from Gaza, would only make Israel less secure militarily.

Moreover, if settlers were evacuated, it would significantly hurt Israel financially, and as the previous disengagement proved, it would not help Israel significantly diplomatically or with its pursuit of peace.

Those advocating a Palestinian Arab state are completely divorced from reality. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has broken commitments from Oslo to not turn to the International Criminal Court, part of a string of broken promises. Recall that he did not even keep the negotiations going with US Secretary of State John Kerry to the deadline agreed upon after Israel released murderers from jail.

But the history is much deeper. Abbas financed the 1972 Olympic Munich massacre, his only book was a denial of the Holocaust, and he continues to financially reward murderers of Jews who are serving time in Israeli prisons, and names streets honoring those killed while murdering Jews. Further, it is highly likely he would be overrun by Hamas as he was previously in Gaza, confirming what many suspect – that he exists only due to Israel’s support.

In June 2002 president George W. Bush made it clear that the US would only support a Palestinian Arab state under a different leadership, and that would be democratic, with a functioning system of justice. Bush insisted that such a state must have an education system that promoted peace. None of this has happened. The creation of a Palestinian Arab state – and with it the withdrawal by Israel from land Israel needs for its security – would undoubtedly lead to war. Israel has further learned the lesson from Gaza that returning to territories already ceded would invariably lead to many more Israeli casualties.

Finally, all those advocating a Palestinian Arab state support the “return” of refugees to this proposed state, a shift that could potentially draw a million or more Palestinian Arabs into these areas. The scenario of a terrorist Palestinian Arab state with such an influx of people would make it militarily devastating for Israel, making the risk of such a state unfathomable to a majority of Israelis.

Yes, many claim the status quo is unsustainable, but the alternatives advocated by the Left are not just worse, but much worse than the status quo. Further, the status quo is helping Israel demographically, countering the arguments of the Left. A month ago, Fatah spokesman Osama Qawassmeh publicly criticized Hamas, claiming that 90% of Gazans want to leave. However exaggerated, the figure is staggering.

This past September approximately 400 Palestinian Arabs (many of them women and children) fleeing Gaza for Europe in a smuggling boat died near Malta when their boat was intentionally sunk in a dispute with smugglers. We have no idea how many others have successfully fled Gaza.

When the ballots were counted, Israeli voters made it clear on election day that they do not favor more withdrawals. Support for Netanyahu increased dramatically once he made it clear that he would resist any Western dictates to withdraw. On this, President Obama disagrees with the prime minister and the Israeli voters.

The problem for President Obama is that he cannot provide a substantive reason why Israel should favor a Palestinian Arab state – basically because there isn’t one. A Palestinian Arab state would not bring peace and there is no demographic reason for Israel to cede more land. This is why President Obama’s actions have caused such great alarm in Israel and in the American Jewish community. He is pushing for Israel to take a step that it rightly believes would jeopardize its security – not exactly the action of one who claims to have Israel’s back, nor the position one would advocate if they hold the position that it is up to Israel and the parties in the region to decide their own futures.

The US policy toward Israel has always been predicated on the understanding that the Americans would never pressure Israel on an issue that threatened Israel’s security. The new, and almost unprecedented level of pressure on Israel to acquiesce to a terrorist Palestinian Arab state that would certainly be threatening raises questions about the American commitment to Israel’s security, not to speak of its respect for its democratic decisions.

The threat to not defend Israel at the UN raises questions about the administration’s commitment.

To be certain, the crisis in US-Israeli relations is not due to a change of policy or commitments by the prime minister of Israel but rather to a change of policy and commitments by the US administration.

It is incumbent on the Obama administration to quickly alleviate the concerns that they themselves have now raised.

The author is president of the National Council of Young Israel.

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