Clinton smiles at AIPAC 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Standing before the crowd at the recent AIPAC conference, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu acknowledged that “from one president to the next, from one Congress to the next, America’s commitment to Israel has been unwavering.”
Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said much the same about the administration in which she serves: “For President [Barack] Obama, for me our commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future is rock solid.”
Yet, in light of the ongoing diplomatic tensions between the two countries, there clearly remains some serious disagreement over just what unwavering, rock solid commitment looks like.
Clinton and Netanyahu both addressed two of the greatest threats facing Israel today, the Iranian nuclear ambitions and violence out of Gaza, but the secretary added a third, the one menace that Netanyahu appears unwilling to acknowledge: attempts to maintain the Israeli-Palestinian status quo. “The status quo is unsustainable for all sides,” the secretary said pointedly. “It promises only more violence and unrealized aspirations.”
This incontrovertible fact has not been lost on the American-Jewish public. By a four-to-one margin, 82 percent of our community supports the American government playing an active role in helping the parties to move beyond the current impasse and resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, according to a J Street-sponsored poll conducted earlier this month. Seventy-one percent support the American government in exerting pressure on both the Israelis and Arabs to make the necessary compromises to achieve peace.
This is because, like the secretary of state, the American-Jewish community understands that if the focus remains on trying to manage the conflict rather than resolve it, the only thing that will be preserved is the endless threat of bloodshed.
AND SO, the American-Jewish people, like the American political leadership, is wrestling with the difficult challenges and choices that Israel faces today – and like Clinton, we are aware that “there is another path.”
The alternative to the status quo is a genuine commitment to seeking a two-state peace accord with the Palestinian people, an accord which, once achieved, will establish true security and the prosperity that comes with durable peace. Such a peace will, of course, demand difficult compromise from all sides, compromises few are eager to make.
But it’s time that we acknowledge that such a peace is not only necessary if we want to see an end to decades of suffering, it’s necessary if we want to protect the future of Israel as a Jewish democracy.
Clinton put it as directly as she could: “We cannot ignore the long-term population trends that result from Israeli occupation. The inexorable mathematics of demography are hastening the hour at which Israelis may have to choose between preserving their democracy and staying true to the dream of a Jewish homeland.”
The American-Jewish community is nothing if not committed to the vision of Israel’s founders, people who fought disease, discomfort and physical threat to establish a democratic state for the Jewish people – and like Clinton, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and many others across the ocean and political boundaries, we have begun to see that a failure to achieve a two-state solution might not simply cost more lives; it may well cost the entire state.
It’s not enough to declare yourself someone’s friend and go home – a good friend, an honest friend, speaks the truth. A good friend with a rock solid commitment to someone in a state of real danger understands that his credibility “depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree to say so, and say so unequivocally.”
It’s incumbent upon the US government to continue to be such a friend
to Israel, and upon America’s Jews to support our government as it does
so. We must support Clinton’s contention that both Israel and the
Palestinians “must refrain from unilateral statements and actions that
undermine the process or prejudice the outcome of talks,” and give her
our clear backing as she and the president challenge all parties to
take the necessary risks for peace.
And then Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and the entire Israeli
people, will see just how unwavering the commitment of this country
and its Jewish community is to the future security of the Jewish state.The writer is J Street’s director of policy and strategy.