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One-Sided Narratives Promote the Harmful Israeli-Palestinian Status Quo

We are concerned that this article in support of the bill misleads the public about why there is no peace between Israelis and Palestinians.   
[additional-authors]
October 20, 2021
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

For the original article from Kevin Rachlin of JStreet, click here.

The irony of the article, “The Two-State Solution Act Takes on the Harmful Israeli-Palestinian Status Quo,” is that it in practice, it only further promotes the status quo.

As a non-partisan education organization, StandWithUs is not engaged in advocacy around the Two-State Solution Act. However, we are concerned that this article in support of the bill misleads the public about why there is no peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

An official FAQ about the Two-State Solution Act implies that it is unlikely to be signed into law. However, it is being introduced anyway in order to send a message to, “ordinary Israelis, Palestinians and Americans who want to see a two-state solution achieved…” So what is the message to readers of the Jewish Journal from prominent supporters of the bill?

In a nutshell, the article portrays Israel as the main problem, and one-sided U.S. pressure as the solution. “The occupation is the mother of all evils” – responsible for everything from Hamas firing rockets at Israeli homes and families to the failure of diplomacy with the Palestinians. If you’re wondering what Palestinian leaders and terrorist groups are responsible for, the article won’t tell you. It offers one vague throw away line about how they, “must shoulder a significant portion of the blame,” before going back to blaming Israel.

What’s missing from this picture?

Let’s start with the fact that Palestinian leaders have turned down every significant peace plan since 1937, refusing to accept the existence of a Jewish state in any territory. In 2000 and 2008, the Israeli government offered to withdraw from Gaza and nearly all of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, to help create a Palestinian state. Palestinian leaders said no and made no counter-offer. Some might argue, “well, that’s old history.” But this pattern continued in 2014, when Israel reportedly said yes to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework for peace negotiations, while the Palestinian leadership said no. Instead, they launched a brutal wave of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians from 2000-2005, and continue to institutionally promote and reward hatred and violence to this day. This includes paying generous salaries to terrorists convicted of bombing, stabbing, shooting, and using vehicles to run over Israelis.

When Israel relinquished control of Gaza and removed every settlement, civilian, and soldier from the territory, the result was the opposite of peace and security. The racist terrorist group Hamas took over and has brought nothing but more suffering to Israelis and Palestinians alike. “Ending the occupation” is neither their ultimate goal, nor what motivated them to start a destructive war with Israel in May, 2021. On September 30th, Hamas held a conference where they made clear that “the full liberation of Palestine from the sea to the river” is “the heart of Hamas’s strategic vision.” And what does that vision entail for Jews? Eliminating Israel, killing all IDF soldiers, detaining and prosecuting some who try to flee for their “crimes”, and forcing “educated Jews and experts” to stay and serve their new masters.

Hamas’ desire to destroy Israel and murder, expel, or subjugate Jews is one major barrier to a two-state solution. Another is its intractable conflict with the Palestinian Authority (PA)/Fatah in the West Bank, which prevents Israel from negotiating with a unified Palestinian leadership. Furthermore, even if Israel could ignore Hamas and solely engage with Fatah, Fatah leaders have been unwilling to make the most basic compromises for peace. For example, how did they react to a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements and a subsequent speech by Secretary Kerry criticizing Israel in 2016? They once again rejected Kerry’s ideas and reaffirmed their refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Why wouldn’t such international pressure on Israel encourage Palestinian leaders to negotiate in good faith? According to Palestinian negotiators Hussein Agha and Ahmad Samih Khalidi, “the Palestinians’ readiness to take the negotiating path to its logical conclusions was restrained by a perception that they were winning the moral and psychological high ground. The paradoxical effect was to make it harder to progress toward an agreement with Israel because it seemed that other influential parties might do the job.”

All of this helps explain why Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who supports a two-state solution, does not believe it is a realistic possibility at this time. Instead, the government is focused on “shrinking the conflict” – finding ways Israel can help improve daily life and increase economic opportunities for Palestinians.

The harmful Israeli-Palestinian status quo cannot be changed without acknowledging and grappling with these realities. In fact, piling onto the one-sided condemnations Israel already faces around the world while doing nothing to hold Palestinian leaders accountable is a proven recipe for accomplishing nothing.

Criticism and debate over Israeli policy is necessary and healthy, particularly in Israel where even the governing coalition has deep differences of opinion about how to make peace with the Palestinians. However, distorting the reality on the ground from thousands of miles away is deeply counterproductive and disrespectful to the people who live this conflict every day.

Max Samarov, Director of Research and Strategy at StandWithUs
With contributions from Roz Rothstein, CEO and Co-Founder of StandWithUs

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