It’s not just ‘leftists’ who support a two-state solution

The two-state solution should not be considered to be a partisan issue, but rather an issue over different values.

ALESTINIANS PASS through at checkpoint at the Kalandia crossing in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
ALESTINIANS PASS through at checkpoint at the Kalandia crossing in Jerusalem
On December 8, Gen. Amir Avivi (res.) wrote a critical response to my article on how to secure the Jordan Valley under a two-state agreement with the Palestinians. While I appreciated that the former general took the time to read my article and provide feedback, I felt compelled to write a response of my own after he referred to Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) as an “extreme left group.” The statement was not just offensive, as he meant to use the phrase in a derogatory way, but also inaccurate. If one were to consider the backgrounds and detailed positions of CIS’s members, one will see that they are anything but “extreme leftists.”
According to their website, CIS is a movement of 293 retired Israeli security officials who have served in a variety of security agencies, such as the IDF, Israel Police, Mossad, and the Shin-Bet (Israel Security Agency). Together, they have more than 9,000 years of experience and they are not just ordinary soldiers. It was founded by Amnon Reshef who served as a general in the Yom Kippur War and is widely considered to be a war hero in Israel. Other notable members include former IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz, former Shin head Bet Ami Ayalon, and multiple former directors of the Mossad, such as Shabtai Shavit, Zvi Zamir, Danny Yatom and Meir Dagan.
Moreover, although they are for a two-state solution with the Palestinians, CIS also supports annexing some of the larger settlement blocs and completion of the security barrier. Additionally, in one of their more controversial initiatives, they issued a full-paged Arabic language ad in a couple of Israeli newspapers in 2017, warning Israeli Jews that Israel would soon become an Arab majority state if it does not commit to separation from the Palestinians. Do those sound like extreme leftist positions to you?
With all due respect to Gen. Avivi, his categorization of CIS as an extreme leftist group may be a symptom of identity politics in Israel. Indeed, in today’s political climate, anyone in Israel who supports a two-state solution may be perceived as an extreme leftist while those who are opposed to it may be considered right wing, but the reality is more nuanced.
There have been many people on the Israeli Right who have also supported separation from the Palestinians, albeit for reasons sharply different than those on the Left. Some people on the Left in Israel may support a two-state solution because they believe the Palestinians have just as much legitimacy to the land as the Jews do. While many people on the Israeli Right may not hold the same beliefs, many of them, like CIS, may still support the idea of two states because they want to preserve the Zionist vision of a Jewish democratic state, and they know that Israel cannot be both if it has millions of Palestinian Arabs residing under its sovereignty.
Tzipi Livni is a good example of this. She not only supports a two-state solution, but was also widely considered to be the leader of Israel’s negotiating team with the Palestinians before her departure from politics. Yet, it may be misleading to call her a “leftist” when considering her background and more specific positions. Both her parents were members of the Irgun, and she started out as a Likud MK. Furthermore, she also supports keeping the larger settlement blocs and construction of the security barrier – positions that are not often endorsed by the far left.
Livni has also indicated that she supports a two-state solution, in fact, for Zionist and nationalist reasons. For example, during a speech at Israel Policy Forum’s annual gala event in 2018, she emphasized that she believes all of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is Jewish land, but she is willing to sacrifice some of the land for the sake of saving Israel’s values.
“My choice between having the entire land of Israel, without Israel as a Jewish democratic state... my choice is to have a Jewish democratic state... secure state... within the land of Israel, but not on the entire land... this is the only way to keep Israel’s values alive.”
However, because the mainstream Israeli Right is becoming more in favor of annexation of the West Bank than separation from the Palestinians, even officials like Livni become branded as leftist and may not find a place in Israeli politics. As Israel Policy Forum policy director Michael Koplow wrote shortly after she left politics, “Livni’s political and ideological commitments represent the Israeli Right at its best, and what has replaced her in the right-wing firmament represents the Israeli Right at its worst. Livni’s political misfortunes do not only represent the demise of Israel’s peace-seeking Left, but the demise of Israel’s admirable Right.”
In order to create a more honest public discourse in Israel, there will need to be a change in the political environment. The two-state solution should not be considered to be a partisan issue, but rather an issue over different values. The debate over whether or not Israel should commit to two states with the Palestinians should not be seen as a battle between the Right versus the Left, but for what it truly is: a battle between those who value keeping all of the Land of Israel versus those who value keeping Israel both Jewish and democratic within the Land of Israel.
The writer is a contributing writer for the Israel Policy Exchange and is pursuing his MSW at Boston College.