Israel Needs to Realize the Middle East Has Changed
This article originally appeared on the New York Times' Room for Debate 15 September 2011.
There are only two genuine threats to Israel’s survival. One is its continued subjugation of the Palestinian people. The other is its failure to realize that it lives in a very different Middle East from that of Herzl or Weizmann or Ben-Gurion. That was a region dominated by outside powers that blandly accepted Herzl’s idea of Israel as a colonial outpost of the West, and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948. Such things are inconceivable in a Middle East where popular sovereignty is finally beginning to have an impact on the foreign policy of states like Turkey and Egypt, and where peoples like those of Libya and Syria are waking up to their power to resist authoritarian governments.
The United States too must adapt to this new Middle East, instead of continuing to rely on bullying pliable clients like the undemocratic Arab regimes that are falling like dominos. The Palestinian Authority has been subjected to threats and pressure to prevent the inter-Palestinian reconciliation which is a precondition of any serious attempt at a peaceful settlement of the conflict, and to prevent it from going to the United Nations to achieve member state status for Palestine.
True security, stability and self-determination for the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples can only come when both enjoy precisely the same rights on a basis of complete equality. That can only happen when both peoples feel safe in a homeland that is not predicated on discrimination and the denial of the rights of the other, as is the case with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians today.
More important than whether it comes via the establishment of one or two states is arriving at a sustainable and lasting final outcome based on justice, international law and human rights. That has not been on offer in American policy for over two decades, nor is it today. As long as the United States supports Israel in standing in the way of an immediate rollback of settlements and end to illegal occupation, a Palestinian state will not see the light of day, and any discussion of it is futile. Until we Americans change this status quo, based on crass domestic political considerations as opposed to our true national interests and our moral and legal responsibilities, a just and stable peace will be a long time in coming.