Foreign PolicyMiddle East Peace Plans

Obama’s Two-State Fantasy

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, National Security Advisor General Jim Jones was quoted in a classified foreign ministry cable as having told a European foreign minister that unlike the Bush administration, Obama will be ‘forceful’ with Israel. Jones is quoted as saying: “The new administration will convince Israel to compromise on the Palestinian question” – meaning Israel will be forced into an expedited agreement on a Palestinian state.

This was not a simple off-the-cuff remark. At the AIPAC Policy Conference in May, Vice President Joe Biden advised Israel to commit to a two-state solution in order to broker a “peace” with the Palestinians, and in Britain, Foreign Secretary David Miliband declared that “Palestinian statelessness is the biggest recruiting sergeant for Islamic extremism around the world” while Tony Blair announced that by the fall, the US, EU, UN and Russia would unveil a new framework for establishing a Palestinian state.

The problem with this insistence on a “two-state solution for two peoples” is that a Palestinian peace partner doesn’t exist and has never existed and no amount of rhetoric, Israeli concessions or pandering to Arab demands can make it so. The Palestinians cannot co-exist with each other let alone with Israel and refuse to forego violence or accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state in their midst – all part of the Islamic political ideology of supremacy over non-Muslims, the principles of which are embedded in Sharia law. Refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, they continue to see Jews as dhimmis, or second class religious subjects, as opposed to a national group exercising legitimate national rights. They propagate the myth that no Jewish kingdom ever existed in the land they call “Palestine”, and that there was never a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem – that is – the Jews are merely European invaders – foreign colonialists with no historical ties whatsoever to the land. (1) They have consistently used this myth as the basis for rejecting the concept of a Jewish state in the Middle East. “We do not recognize the State of Israel or its right to control any of the land of Palestine”, said Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar. “Palestine is holy Islamic land. Our national problem is not related only to the West Bank, Gaza, and al-Quds (Jerusalem)…but to Palestine, all [the territory of] Palestine.” By that he meant Israel proper or what he calls “the Zionist entity.” So far as Hamas is concerned, the war against the Jews will continue until Israel as an independent Jewish state is vanquished. As Alan Dershowitz writes: “The people of Gaza really believe that the Holocaust never occurred. They really believe that firing rockets at school children is God’s command. They really believe that Jews are a combination of the devil, monkeys, pigs and vermin. They really believe that Israel doesn’t want peace and seeks to destroy the Islamic world and its holy places. It is difficult to build an enduring peace on such a structure of lies.”

Nor is “moderate” Fatah any different. In March, Muhammad Dahlan, a former chief of the PA’s secret police organizations defended Fatah from the charge, made by Hamas, that it had previously recognized Israel’s right to exist. “For the 1,000th time”, Dahlan said, “I want to reaffirm that we are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Rather we are asking Hamas not to do so, because Fatah never recognized Israel’s right to exist.” Abu Mazen himself expressed similar sentiments in 2006. In furtherance of this, as Palestinian Media Watch has documented on numerous occasions, the Palestinian Authority educational system continues to ignore American and Israeli demands that it halt anti-Israel propaganda and incitement. It continues to teach children that all of Israel belongs to Arabs. As part of that strategy, in 1964, the Arabs created a fiction they called the “Palestinians” and blanketed the world successfully with the mantra that they were the Palestinians and Palestine (read “Israel”) was theirs. PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein explained the strategy to the Dutch newspaper Trouw: “The Palestinian people do not exist,” he said. “The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel. In reality, there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak about the existence of a Palestinian people since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.”

Winston Churchill once wrote that regardless of how brilliant the strategy, we should occasionally look at the results. For nineteen years, between 1948 and 1967, Arab countries ruled Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and during all that time no one established a Palestinian state and no one talked of a Palestinian state. They could easily have set up a Palestinian homeland in those areas. They did not. It is not as if the Palestinians have never before been offered statehood. The history of the 20th century is strewn with such opportunities – from the Arab rejection of the 1936-1937 Peel Commission Report on partition; to Haj Amin al-Husseini’s choice of war rather than a two-state solution in 1947; to the 1967 Six-Day War when Israel offered to exchange land in return for a permanent peace with its neighbors leading to the three No’s of the 1967 Khartoum Declaration – no negotiation, no recognition, no peace; to the Israeli withdrawals from southern Lebanon (2000) and Gaza (2005) that left genocidal terrorists on Israel’s northern and southern borders; to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer in 2000 of virtually everything the Arabs claimed they sought – a sovereign state with its capital in East Jerusalem, 97% of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and tens of billions of dollars in “compensation” for the plight of Palestinian refugees – all of which was rejected by Arafat who then brought on the Oslo War (also known as the Second Intifada) and the murder of over a thousand Israelis; to the covenant of Hamas declaring endless war not only against “the Zionist entity” but against Jews everywhere; to polls conducted recently by a reputable Norwegian polling institute showing conclusively that a majority of Palestinians are not against a two-state solution provided both states are Muslim; to the Palestinian media and Palestinian textbooks that continue to promote a culture of martyrdom and hatred of Israel and Jews; to Palestinian “moderates” like Mahmoud Abbas who recently rejected any possibility that the Jews could or should be considered one of the “two peoples” in any proposed two-state solution and who also rejected Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert’s offer in December 2008 of 97% of the West Bank for a Palestinian state, plus ‘the right of return’ and large-scale Palestinian immigration into Israel ……… all of which leads to the question how, in the face of such hatred and rejectionism, anyone could possibly believe that peace in the Middle East can be attained through the creation of a Palestinian state that even the Palestinians don’t want unless it is an Arab/Muslim state replacing Israel?

One would think after all this, that the European Union and the US would have concluded that the concept of a two-state solution for two peoples is part of a larger Arab strategy designed to destroy Israel as a Jewish state incrementally rather than the panacea for an over-all Middle East “peace”. Yet, pressure for a “two-state solution” is precisely what Prime Minister Netanyahu encountered in his May 18th meeting with President Obama.

The current administration misunderstands the nature of the problem in the Middle East. It is not that the Israelis don’t understand Obama. They understand him very well. Obama’s problem is that they don’t buy what he’s selling. Palestinians define their identity in terms of the absence of Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinian nationalism seeks to replace Israel not co-exist with it. For that reason, there is no Palestinian leader with any following that accepts Israel, so it is pointless to discuss a Palestinian state unless Palestinian society itself is fundamentally changed. Time and again, a two-state solution for two peoples has been proposed and time and again, the Arabs have rejected it. It is not simply that they have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity (which, by the way, they have) but they remain more intent on annihilating the Jewish presence in Israel than fulfilling the responsibilities of statehood in their own separate state. It is, in its very essence, a religious war wrapped in the garb of a territorial dispute. Even if Israel removed every security barrier eliminated all its West Bank checkpoints, agreed to return to the pre-1967 borders, removed every Israeli city, town and village from the West Bank (as it did in Gaza), offered a generous refugee “compensation package”, and acceded to Palestinian demands that sections of Jerusalem be internationalized, does any sentient person actually believe that this would end the Arab-Israeli conflict? So why pressure Israel into what can only be described as a suicide pact with those committed to its destruction? The unfortunate truth is that the willingness of Arabs to make peace with Israel is a direct function of their perception of Israel’s invincibility.

Joseph Puder said as much in a recent article in FrontPageMagazine: “A widening majority of Israelis have come to realize that a paper agreement with the Palestinians is worthless, and that once Israel has withdrawn from the West Bank and the attacks against Israel renew, the world – including the US – will find excuses for Palestinian bad behavior. The Palestinians are certain to renege on key provisions of any agreement as they did under the Oslo Accords, and the Obama administration, intent on keeping the Arab and Muslim world happy, is unlikely to give Israel a green light to reoccupy the West Bank. One has to be a fool to believe that Mahmoud Abbas or any other Palestinian-Arab chieftain would settle for a demilitarized West Bank, or would seriously consider uprooting the terrorist infrastructure.” On the Palestinian street, the preference is for a one-state solution in place of Israel. The two-state solution in its current formula is actually just a placebo for those who’d like to believe that peace will come when there are two states living side by side. Absent real acceptance of Israel by the Arabs, this isn’t likely to occur.

Furthermore, the linkage between the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and “progress” on the Iranian nuclear threat as suggested by US foreign policy officials is preposterous. Even a tacit acceptance by America and Israel of a nuclear-armed Iran will not be enough to persuade Tehran to accept a two-state solution that would allow Israel to exist as a Jewish state. The mullahs have built their reputations as radical Islamists in part on their anti-Americanism and in part on their insistence that no Jewish state should exist in “the heart of the Muslim world”, so why abandon their raison d’etre when the only nation capable of threatening their power, the U.S., continues to dither through dialogue and ineffective economic sanctions? Even the Iranians mock these efforts as symptomatic of American decline and weakness.

Does the current administration actually believe that after years of deception, billions spent on developing a covert nuclear weapons program and threats to “wipe Israel off the map”, the Iranian mullahs are suddenly going to evolve into rational actors, accept American-led global liberalization, become less apocalyptic and less messianic by ending their efforts to bring on the hidden imam, Shi’ite Islam’s “end of times” figure of retribution, less inclined to establish their caliphate throughout the Middle East, and more prepared to turn their swords into plowshares once a Palestinian state has been established?

Does the current administration not see that if the Iranian regime continues to advance its nuclear program, it risks Iranian domination of the oil-rich Persian Gulf, threats to U.S.-allied Arab regimes, the emboldening of Muslim jihadists in the region, the creation of an existential threat to Israel, the destabilization of Iraq, the shutdown of the Israel-Palestinian peace process, and a regional nuclear-arms race? The Arabs know it and the Israelis know it, but the Obama administration continues to plough ahead with its failed policies, oblivious to the facts on the ground.

Does the current administration actually believe that the moment a Palestinian state is created in Gaza and the West Bank, Syria will cease transferring terrorists to Iraq, cease its concealed chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, reduce its ties with Iran and Korea, or cease meddling in Lebanese affairs? As Barry Rubin writes in the Jerusalem Post: “There are huge benefits Syria derives from its alliance with Iran including Islamist legitimacy, protection against being attacked or pressured, money, weapons, cooperation in anti-Israel terrorism and spreading both countries’ influence among the Palestinians, Lebanese and Iraqis. Once Iran gets nuclear weapons, which is on the horizon, the alliance’s value for Syria will rise dramatically.”

Does the current administration actually believe that stopping an Israeli family from building an addition to their home to accommodate their children in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, Ma’aleh Adumim, Efrat or Ariel is more important than stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons or demanding that the Arabs stop inciting hatred of Jews and Israel in their schools, marketplaces, mosques and media, start dismantling their terrorist infrastructures, and recognize Irael’s right to exist as a Jewish state in the Middle East?

Does the current administration not recognize that the settlement and natural growth issues are peripheral matters with little relevance either to the Palestinians’ quality of life or to the ultimate disposition of territory in the West Bank? The fracas over this issue is not only undermining U.S.-Israeli relations, but the credibility of the Obama administration which is now seen by the vast majority of Israelis and a growing number of Americans as forcing Israel into making dangerous security and land concessions while pandering to Israel’s (and America’s) enemies. If Obama wants to retain the Jewish support he received in the last election, and restore a sense of trust among the Israeli people, then he had best understand the reasons why the Israelis have shifted away from the “land for peace” concept. By forcing Israel to accept another terrorist state on its borders, he will not only fail to build his Arab coalition against Iran, but he will be fulfilling Iran’s mission in the Middle East.

History tells us that making nice with genocidal fanatics will not convert them into apostles of peace, but that does not seem to phase this administration whose Middle East foreign policy appears to be ideologically inflexible and based more on wishful thinking than reality – the myth that all terrorists want is to be appeased, accepted and respected. Consequently, it is immune to rational argument and appears unmoved by objective facts that prove otherwise (such as the recent Fatah conference in Bethlehem that categorically rejected any accommodation with Israel), and expose as folly its single-minded devotion to the idea that Israel is responsible for the absence of peace in the Middle East.

The reality Obama refuses to accept is that peace has never been up to the Israelis. It has always been up to Israel’s enemies. John Podhoretz notes in Commentary: “The goal of American foreign policy in the Middle East is now the creation of a Palestinian state. Very little will be expected of the Palestinians in the creation of that state; Hamas should renounce terror and recognize Israel, but a failure to do so will not kill the deal. Violence should be foresworn, but even that is of secondary importance to the state itself….A great deal, however, is expected of Israel.” Obama’s insistence that the U.S. has the only solution to the conflict will never reassure the Israeli people on the right or the left that his policies are intended to benefit them.

The 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project found that 77% of Palestinians do not believe they can live side-by-side with Israel as a Jewish state. That being the case, so long as fewer than two in ten Palestinians believe in Israel’s right to exist as a nation with a Jewish majority, there can be no successful peace based on a two-state solution. Israel cannot afford to take existential risks posed by a terror-based Palestinian state, all of whose leaders refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, former head of Israel’s National Security Council, made much the same point recently when he declared “…the maximum that any government of Israel will be ready to offer the Palestinians and still survive politically is much less than the minimum that any Palestinian leader can accept.”

President Obama told Jewish leaders in a July meeting that Israel needs to “engage in serious self-reflection.” His idea that Israelis need to reconsider their policies and change their attitude is more than arrogance. It is incredibly naive, historically wrong and inherently dangerous. The truth is that President Obama’s whole Middle East strategy is in the process of imploding. He had best re-evaluate his policies rather than advise the Israelis to re-evaluate theirs.


  1. For a more detailed analysis, see Steven Plaut, “The 14 Lies Blocking Peace in the Middle East,”, August 14, 2009

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