As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Space On The Left For Two-State Solutions

It was clear when Bibi Netanyahu made his speech with its alleged concession to a Palestinian state that he was not fully endorsing anything approaching a framework for that state. What sovereign entity agrees to unilaterally disarm and not defend its borders? Michael Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the US, basically confirmed this the other day:

In an interview with Reuters yesterday, Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren said: "When the prime minister and the government uses the word 'state' now, it has to attach a number of caveats to it, so it'll be understood that what we're talking about here is not a state in the classical sense, as is widely understood, but a state that will have some -- some -- substantive restrictions on its powers."

That's just not going to be good enough, or at least it shouldn't be for policymakers in this country. Harold Meyerson points out that Americans, in particular American Jews, understand that a two state solution, and only a two state solution, can bring about peace in the region and ensure the security of everyone, including the Israelis.

What underpins the resolve of both the administration and Congress to push the Israelis, no less than the Palestinians, toward a settlement is the clear approval this approach commands among American Jews. A poll taken in March for J Street, an organization of American Jews that favors a territorial accord, showed 72 percent support among Jewish Americans for U.S. pressure on Israel and its Arab neighbors to reach an accord, and, remarkably, 57 percent support for U.S. pressure just on Israel. The poll also found 60 percent opposition to the expansion of settlements.

These numbers reflect changes in American Jewish life and thought that have been building for decades. At a broad level, the intense identification of American Jews with Israel has been waning for many years. More narrowly, the past couple of decades have brought the rise of American Jewish groups that try to pressure the U.S. government to push for a two-state solution -- a clear counterweight to more established organizations such as AIPAC that generally try to pressure the U.S. government to do whatever the Israeli government would like it to do. The J Street PAC, an organization that's just three years old, raises funds for members of Congress who back policies leading to a two-state solution, much as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) encourages its backers to donate to candidates who toe a more hawkish line.

I wouldn't go so far to say that AIPAC has been completely sidelined, but clearly Jewish groups have created space on the left to allow Obama to take a hard line on the settlements issue. It's good that Hillary Clinton refused to yield to racist Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on this count.

Obviously, Netanyahu isn't being realistic or even serious about a Palestinian state. But for the first time in a while, the forces of peace are dictating strategy in the White House, at least as it concerns the Middle East.

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