Congressional Democrats have begun responding to Bibi Netanyahu’s election promise to annex major settlements in the West Bank. Four pro-Israel House members offered a milquetoast warning to Netanyahu not to take any measures which would preclude a two-state solution. This statement is ludicrous because not only does Bibi oppose two-states, there isn’t a hope in hell of two-states happening regardless of who’s in power. This is the deluded figment of the liberal Zionist imagination.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez herself followed up on this with her own statement saying that reducing Israeli military aid was definitely “on the table” in the event of annexation. Bernie Sanders, during a 2017 interview with Mehdi Hassan, endorsed the same approach in a back-handed manner:
Would he, therefore, ever consider voting to reduce U.S. aid to Israel — worth at least $3bn per annum — or U.S. arms sales to the Israeli military?
“The U.S. funding plays a very important role, and I would love to see people in the Middle East sit down with the United States government and figure out how U.S. aid can bring people together, not just result in an arms war in that area. So I think there is extraordinary potential for the United States to help the Palestinian people rebuild Gaza and other areas. At the same time, demand that Israel, in their own interests in a way, work with other countries on environmental issues.” He then, finally, answers my question: “So the answer is yes.”
It is — by the depressingly low standard of modern U.S. politics — a remarkable and, dare I say it, radical response from Sanders. “Aid to Israel in Congress and the pro-Israel community has been sacrosanct,” the Jewish Telegraphic Agency noted earlier this year, “and no president has seriously proposed cutting it since Gerald Ford in the mid-1970s.”
In case there was any doubt that the Senator’s position has changed in the interim, his foreign policy advisor, Matt Duss, reiterated it in a tweet yesterday:
Yes it is. And headline actually undersells the great, nuanced answer from @AOC. U.S. has lots of tools to signal opposition to Israeli policy. Withholding or cutting aid is one. An administration seriously interested in getting a peace agreement will use them. https://t.co/PmshPOSmzS
— Matt Duss (@mattduss) April 15, 2019
It’s remarkable that even liberal Zionist groups like J Street have come around to this position, which at one time would have been unthinkable:
Nuanced position from @AOC in wake of Netanyahu annexation pledge: open up discussion of US-Israel relations. J Street view: US can assure Israeli security w/o funding activities that run counter to US values, interests such as annexation, demolitions. https://t.co/TiaKIutdvT
— Jeremy Ben-Ami (@JeremyBenAmi) April 15, 2019
It’s unremarkable that pro-Israel Democratic foreign policy mandarins like Aaron David Miller scoffed at the notion, saying it was political unfeasible:
Maybe in a parallel galaxy far far away. But not back here on planet earth.This is an other worldy talking point that no US Administration ever took seriously since there was a so-called peace process. And likely never will.
— Aaron David Miller (@aarondmiller2) April 15, 2019
It’s useful to remember who scoffed at Martin Luther King when he began the Montgomery bus boycott. And who scoffed Thurgood Marshall when he began litigating civil rights cases in the early 1950s. And who scoffed at Ruth Bader Ginsberg when she brought her first case arguing sex discrimination. And who scoffed at Barack Obama when he announced he was running for president. Those too were considered impossibly impractical, dead-end campaigns by many of their compatriots. But look what happened.
I expect such derision from these circles. They themselves could not bring peace when they had a chance. Their approach has gone bankrupt. Now they demean more aggressive approaches, which actually confront the severity of the crisis, rather than try to put a band-aid on it. To people like Miller, I say, get out of the way and let others try something different.
Despite all the good pushback from these Democrats, it may be time to rethink this issue. Instead of warning Bibi not to annex, something he appears likely to do anyway given Trump’s expected support for the idea, why not base our opposition to Bibi on how much territory and population should be annexed? He wants to take the major settlement population centers (and probably even smaller ones) and absorb them into Israel. A more strategic response would be to demand Israel annex all of the Occupied Territories, and offer all residents, Jews and Palestinians, citizenship and equal rights.
Once Israel partially annexes the West Bank and leaves the Palestinians stateless, it becomes even easier to make the case Israel is an apartheid state which should be ostracized from the world until it grants full rights to all inhabitants of Israel-Palestine. The only reason Netanyahu might not annex is a fear that it will enormously strengthen the BDS movement.
Yes, that is the dreaded one-state solution. But what’s left once we admit two-states is dead? It’s the equivalent of the last man standing.
NOTE: This weekend I will be delivering a paper, Israel and the Marketing of the Surveillance State, at the Islamophobia conference at UC Berkeley. I delivered this paper on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia at last year’s conference. If you live in the Bay Area, you’re welcome to attend.