When I was in Israel several weeks ago I had the opportunity to accompany one of Shalom Achshav’s Settlement Watch staffers on a 4 hour trek into the West Bank around Jerusalem to investigate building activity in both the “legal” settlements and the “illegal outposts.” The Israeli government has made a commitment to dismantle the dozens of “illegal outposts,” but to date has not done so. These outposts and some of the settlements built deep inside the West Bank pose problems in imagining a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank in an eventual two-state peace agreement.
This past week Peter Beinart wrote an important piece in The Daily Beast entitled “AIPAC, Israel, and the Hypocritical Claim of backing a Two-State Solution.” It is, in my view, a persuasive argument contending that AIPAC’s policy in support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is nothing more than lip service. For the complete article, see http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/05/aipac-israel-and-the-hypocritical-claim-of-backing-a-two-state-solution.html.
Beinart reports that on the morning the most recent AIPAC National Conference began, AIPAC’s national body approved its 2012 action principles. Nowhere, however, is a “Palestinian state” or “two-state solution” mentioned. The action principles also call for an “undivided Jerusalem,” (point #6) a problematic statement given the consensus among many that a final resolution of this conflict will include Jerusalem serving as the capital of both Israel and Palestine. The Clinton-Barak-Arafat plan, the Geneva Accord, and the Olmert-Abbas proposals all designated Jerusalem as the eventual capital of both states. It is a bottom line issue for both peoples, and for AIPAC to dismiss this is a non-starter.
Recognizing that AIPAC’s 2012 principles present a question about AIPAC’s commitment of support for a two-state solution, a progressive group that sits on AIPAC’s National Council, Ameinu, introduced an amendment to AIPAC’s action principles that read, “AIPAC supports Israel’s commitment to democratic values and the rule of law, including the protection of minorities and the dismantling of illegal settlement outposts.”
In advance of the vote, the AIPAC Board attempted to discourage Ameinu from introducing the amendment arguing that AIPAC should never tell the Israeli government what to do. But the Israeli government had already committed itself to dismantling these “illegal outposts.” The Ameinu amendment only sought to put AIPAC on record in supporting the Israeli government’s own policy decision. One has to wonder why it would demur in this case when so often AIPAC boldly supports other Israeli government decisions. The only conclusion one can reasonably draw is that AIPAC wants to see settlement construction continue and make a two-state solution virtually impossible, if it isn’t already.
By a vote of 300 to five, AIPAC voted down Ameinu’s amendment.
Israel has a choice. If it intends to maintain its Jewish majority and its democratic institutions it needs a negotiated two-state solution. If it intends to hold onto all the West Bank in Israel, then Israel will have to either deny 1.2 million Palestinians living in the West Bank full Israeli citizenship rights thereby sacrificing Israel’s democratic ideals, or grant those Palestinians citizenship and lose its Jewish majority in just a few short years. Either way, Israel will cease to embody the original Zionist vision as the homeland for the Jewish people and a democratic state based upon equal rights for all.
Beinart put it this way:
“AIPAC serves as a political bodyguard for the settlement process that brings one state ever closer [i.e. a secular and bi-national state]. [AIPAC] serves as a pallbearer for that quaint idea envisioned by Israel’s declaration of independence, a state that both safeguards the Jewish people and offers “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex.””
When the AIPAC Board takes positions as it did in voting down Ameinu’s amendment in such a lopsided vote, I fear for Israel’s future. More sober AIPAC supporters ought to as well.