For an unreconstructed Trekkie, it was an irresistible hook.
Leonard Nimoy, whose pointy Spock ears and hyperlogical thinking thrilled me as a youth, sent me a letter on behalf of Americans for Peace Now. And it was, if I may say so, “fascinating,” although not as Nimoy intended. Rather, it exemplified the fundamental error of the self-proclaimed “pro-Israel peace camp.”
In his letter Nimoy “is troubled to see the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians continue apparently without an end in sight.” Ah, but Nimoy says that there is an end—the two-state solution, which he defines as “a secure, democratic Israel as the Jewish State alongside an independent Palestinian state.”
APN is not afraid to warn that not only is Israel losing in the court of world opinion through its continuing settlement expansion and inability to find its way forward in peace negotiations; it is also losing some of its strategic value to the United States, whose support is vital to Israel’s security. . . . We need strong American leadership now to pivot from the zero-sum mentality of violence to an attitude that focuses on the parties’ shared interests: security and prosperity. . . . There is a sizable number of influential voices in Israel saying the same thing. . . . Their plan includes a Palestinian state alongside Israel with agreed-upon land swaps. The Palestinian-populated areas of Jerusalem would become the capital of Palestine; the Jewish-populated areas the capital of Israel.
Similarly, J Street, which bills itself as the “political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans,” regards the two-state solution as the key to ending the conflict, and favors U.S. pressure on Israel to achieve it.
I personally favor the two-state solution, so I don’t quarrel with that part of the premise. Here’s the problem, though: you would never find out from Leonard Nimoy, Americans for Peace Now or J Street that in fact Israel has accepted the two-state solution, while the Palestinians have rejected it.
As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu recently pointed out, he explicitly accepted the idea of a Palestinian state back in 2009. This reflects the majority opinion of Israelis (albeit conditioned on Palestinian reciprocity). Israeli acceptance of the two-state solution goes all the way back to the yishuv’s 1947 approval of the U.N. partition plan.
On the other hand, Palestinian Authority Chair Mahmoud Abbas has said that he does not accept a “Jewish state,” and publicly rejects the Jewishness of Israel. In June Nabil Sha’th, Fatah’s international relations commissioner, said: “We do not recognize anything called the state of the Jewish people. We are prepared to recognize the State of Israel, if they say that the Israeli people includes those Muslim and Christian residents who are the true owners of the land. But we do not agree to [two states] for two peoples, which means that Israel belongs to the Jewish people.”
And here’s this from the PA’s daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 27, 2011:
The Zionists must acknowledge publicly, in front of the world, that the Jews have no connection to the Palestinian Arab land, upon whose ruins arose the colonialist settler Zionist plan that settles and expels, represented by the Israeli apartheid state. That which occurred two thousand years ago (i.e., the Jewish/Israeli presence in the land), assuming that it is true, represents in the book of history nothing more than invention and falsification and a coarse and crude form of colonialism.
For months Netanyahu has been urging Abbas to resume peace talks without preconditions. Nothing doing, says Abbas.
Another form of Palestinian rejectionism is the insistence on the “Palestinian right of return.” This is the claim that millions of refugees and their descendants are entitled to come, not to the Palestinian state, but to Israel. This would demographically end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Palestinian leaders tend to call this a “sacred” right, raising unrealistic expectations among their people.
That’s just the Palestinian Authority. Then there’s Hamas, which barely tries to hide its genocidal anti-Semitism. The union of Hamas and the PA, if it sticks, means peace between Israel and the Palestinians through a two-state solution is impossible.
Why do Americans for Peace Now and J Street have little or nothing to say about consistent official Palestinian rejection of the two-state solution?
There’s a frustrating, through-the-looking-glass quality to much of the coverage and commentary on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Distorting the positions of the parties, to make the Palestinians seem willing and Israel averse, is so widespread as to be conventional wisdom. But it’s the opposite of the truth.
There is a possible explanation for this misrepresentation. The story goes that a man, walking home late at night, notices another man on hands and knees under a lamppost. He asks, “Lose something?” “Yeah, my keys,” the other replies. “Did you drop them here?” “No,” says the searcher, gesturing into the gloom, “over there.” Puzzled, the man asks, “Then why don’t you look over there?” “Because the light’s better here.”
The “peace camp” realizes that it cannot pull peace out of the Palestinian darkness, so it insists that Israel somehow bring peace to light. This is as futile as looking for the keys where the light’s better, instead of where the keys really are.
This attitude of “it’s up to Israel” (because the Palestinians are unable or unwilling) is reinforced by the Zionist credo of self-reliance. This “can do-ism” was invaluable for building and defending the Jewish state. But it’s self-defeatingly delusional for negotiating a peace treaty with the Palestinians. The simple reason is that both sides must want peace, and peace demands recognizing the legitimacy of your “peace partner.” For Israel to create a state for the Palestinians while the Palestinians insist that they don’t recognize the right of the Jews to their own state is madness. Such a “peace treaty” would be nothing more than a temporary truce, behind which the Palestinians would prepare for the next war. This is borne out by polls that show that the majority of Palestinians view the “two-state solution” as a mere prelude to the “one-state solution,” i.e., the end of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
If you ask the wrong question, you cannot get the right answer. And the “peace camp’s” question, “How can we pressure Israel to do more to make peace with the Palestinians?” is the wrong question, and makes peace less likely, not more. When the “peace camp” starts to make serious demands of the Palestinians, it will be logical to take it seriously.
An earlier version of this article appeared at Jewishjournal.com