Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered a critical speech in which he laid out his approach to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As the Jerusalem Post’s editor wrote, the speech could be summed up in saying “over to you, Mr. Abbas.”
The speech effectively challenged Palestinian and other Arab leaders by virtue of the fact that Netanyahu articulated the broad, current consensus in Israel – that Israel will not only accept, but assist in the creation of a Palestinian state so long as doing so does not and cannot threaten the physical security and Jewish integrity of Israel.
(And it is not by coincidence that The White House welcomed the speech, as President Obama’s past statements seem to accept this perspective too.)
But we would also add that, while not a prime audience for the Prime Minister, his speech also challenges American Jewry and the array of organizations and leaders here who place themselves in the “pro-Israel” camp, most especially those in the self styled “pro-Israel pro-peace” left, as published in a recent op-ed whose most relevant passages are these:
“…it was the self-styled “pro-peace” organizations and pundits that pilloried the prime minister for his refusal to verbally embrace “the two-state solution.” But now they must explain: By their definition, when they urge this solution and insist the Obama administration press for it, do they dissent from the view that the Palestinian state be demilitarized and lack other sovereign powers?
Even Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who supports a two-state solution, accepted this logic at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee meeting a few weeks ago, when he said: “Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, only to face Hezbollah missiles. Israel withdrew from Gaza, only to face Hamas rockets. The Israelis are not about to let the same thing happen in the West Bank, and nor should they.”
If those of the Jewish left cannot concur on this, that begs the question: What kind of peace are they interested in for Israel?
But if, as I hope, they do agree that a “two-state solution” must not mean its literal definition, then we have stumbled onto a significant opportunity for unity in the American Jewish community. For while there will still be disagreements over critical details, the “pro-peace-process” left can join with the skeptical center-right in a clear message of unified support for a substantive result and, moreover, support the current prime minister of Israel’s stated goal of assuring that any result from negotiations guarantees Israel’s security, peace and Jewish character.
As Obama noted in his Oval Office statement, Israel is currently “confronted with as many important decisions about the [state’s] long-term strategic interests… as any… that we’ve seen in a very long time.” American Jewry must rally to a common message and common purpose to support Israel so that the Jewish homeland will make wise decisions and endure.