President Obama Is Right About Israel


It took me a long time to calm down enough to write this.

I was angrier than I have been in years when I heard the President lecturing Prime Minister Netanyahu about Israel’s borders. All in all, fan though I am not of the President, even though I voted for him and would do so again providing his opponent was John McCain, I tend to think better of him than I do the Prime Minister. However, it is a fact that America has lost control over its southern border at the same time that a war of terrifying cruelty is raging inside Mexico and slowly spilling into America. The sheer arrogance of a President who appears to be blithely and blindly unconcerned with this reality, lecturing a Prime Minister who lives under the ghosts and reality of genocide made my skin crawl.

But President Obama was nevertheless right.

And not in the way you think. Every rational Israeli favors a two-state solution and knows that the 1967 borders, with land swaps, are going to form the basic outline of a sovereign Palestinian state on the West Bank. After all, geography has not changed. Jerusalem is not on the table: it is the Israeli capitol. Nor is any Palestinian right of return: Israelis are simply not going to commit national suicide. Every sovereign state has the right to decide who is a citizen, and if it seems a bit odd that Jews should have the right of return to a nation where neither they nor their ancestors have lived, is no odder and certainly far less evil than Jews being considered at best guests in the nations where they had lived for generations, even millennia. Including much of the Arab world. Israel is out of most of the West Bank: the occupation is de facto over and Israel and America are pretty much paying the Palestinian Authority.

Rather, a two-state solution is about what type of state Israel wishes to be. And even more importantly what type of state Palestine wishes to be.

For Israel to say: OK, Palestinian Authority, here is your state; here are the borders we are going to accept and while there is no right of return, we will pay reverse sal klitah benefits to Israeli Arabs who wish to leave, is to say something very important. Which is that Israel is a great power and great powers do not permit their borders to be defined by Bible stories and their futures defined by the fanatics who believe in them. Choosing this future would mean the beginning of Israeli maturity as a Jewish social welfare state that is also a vibrant liberal democracy. It would mean the rejection of a theocracy of cruelty and obscuratanism (as all theocracies are) and of the current status quo, a strange combination of American pop culture, Middle Eastern self-indulgence, religious hyperorthodoxy and militarism.

For Palestine to say, OK, We’ll take this two-state solution means being a dependency of Israel. Which in turn requires accepting from Israel what the Arab world could have given them in 5 minutes any time up to 1967—and didn’t. The 1947 UN resolution establishing Israel also established Palestine, which Israel accepted, including the partition of Jerusalem. Accepting the reality of a Palestinian state means answering the question: How do we wish to live? Do we want to be Hamas? Or do we want to try to do what our Israeli Jewish cousins have done: build a small, powerful state that offers good things to the world? Choosing the latter, of course, means a holy alliance with Israel because it’s gonna be Israel—especially Israel—Russia and America defending Palestine against the Arab crazies. The Palestinian people have a choice: Hamas, or building a state that all people of good will wish to succeed. If he chooses the good of his people, Mahmoud Abbas could pay with his life. As did King Abdullah. As did Anwar Sadat. As did Yitzhak Rabin. And he knows it.

While the rest of the Arab world does not want a Palestinian state because the humiliation of the Palestinian people will no longer serve as a pressure relief valve. No matter who controls the Western Wall, the Arab world will still be the Arab world, trapped in religious obscuratanism and crippled by misogyny. Rather like the Haredi community in Israel. Which is the way they both want it.

It is my fervent hope that Israel unilaterally recognizes a Palestinian state now, preemptively and embraces a future of modernity—and that the Palestinians do the same.


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