18 July '16..
One plank of the Republican Party’s new platform has ignited a debate within the pro-Israel community. Many friends of the Jewish state cheered the draft that reaffirmed the U.S.-Israel alliance. It also specified that there would be no-“daylight” between the two countries, affirmed the unity of Jerusalem, and opposed the anti-Semitic BDS movement. Others, however, are unhappy with this. In particular, the Anti-Defamation League expressed its dismay that the platform didn’t mention support for a two-state solution. Some dissenters went further still. Haaretz Columnist Chemi Shalev spoke for many on the left when he denounced the plank as being anti-Israel. But whatever the theoretical virtues of two states, the ultimate purpose of these critiques is to attack the foundation of political support for Israel inside the United States: Christian conservatives.
Shalev reasons that any opposition to two states as the answer to the conflict with the Palestinians not only dooms Israel to perpetual fighting, but will also transform the country into an Arab-majority single state. This is a theme we’ve heard before from other figures on the Jewish left, such as Peter Beinart. In effect, it delegitimizes those on the right who oppose Palestinian statehood or support the settlement movement or those who are just skeptical about blind devotion to the peace process.
But no matter your opinion of two states or settlements, such arguments are dangerous because they demonize opponents while also ignoring the beliefs and positions of the Palestinians. In a theoretical world where the Palestinians were willing to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders were drawn, a two-state peace would make sense and command the support of the overwhelming majority of Israelis. But since even “moderate” Palestinian leaders won’t extend such recognition, the idea remains theoretical.
Palestinians are saying no to two states— as they have repeatedly done since it was first offered to them at the Camp David Summit in 2000. Thus, it’s not a serious policy question. It is slanderous to brand as anti-Zionist those who believe that managing the conflict (instead of solving it) is the best that can be done at the moment. In fact, that group of supposed anti-Zionists would include most Israelis. Those liberals who complain about a decline in civility within the Jewish community and then call opponents enemies of the Jewish state are the worst kinds of hypocrites.
But when liberal American Jews or left-wing Israelis attack the GOP platform, they are foremost hoping to land blows on Christian conservatives who are generally supportive of Israeli claims to the West Bank. Many leftists and liberals foolishly distrust evangelicals as friends, even though their sincerity on Israeli issues has been proven time and again. And these critics’ true agenda is political, in both an American and Israeli context. American liberals prioritize domestic issues and don’t like the idea of making common cause with people who have views they abhor on abortion and church-state separation. Others on the left understand that pro-Israel Americans can thwart their hope that Washington will force Israel to agree to more territorial withdrawals — withdrawals that the majority of Israelis oppose as unwise.
Let’s concede that it’s just as silly for pro-Israel Jews to claim that the platform is evidence of how a Trump administration will govern. It’s not just that Trump won’t care what the platform says on this or other issues. There may be indeed some pro-Israel figures within his inner circle. But there is an argument to be made that a president with the sort of isolationist sentiments that drive Trump will make the Middle East more dangerous for Israel than it currently is.
You may disagree, as the ADL does, with the Republicans on whether Israel is an “occupier” on the West Bank or whether two states makes sense. But to call their refusal to pressure Israel into concessions “anti-Zionist” is Orwellian. If the Israeli left and its American friends want to change Israel’s policies, they should win the next Israeli election. Complaining about Americans who sympathize with their nation is as shortsighted as it is ridiculous.
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