U.S. President Barack Obama’s adviser, Ben Rhodes, conveyed a threatening message to Israel this week. Don’t think, he warned, that pressure on Israel will let up after Obama’s term ends. In an interview with Barak Ravid on the occasion of the Israel Conference for Peace, Rhodes said that the international community would continue to be concerned over the lack of a solution to the conflict and over its expansion and would not stop looking for a way to establish two states — and so would any American president. (Haaretz, November 9).
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A few days earlier senior members of the American administration, among them Obama’s adviser for Middle Eastern affairs, Robert Malley, were quoted as talking publicly about the possibility of a binational state — or, as they put it: “Netanyahu needs to be asked what he intends doing to prevent such an outcome.”
Wait a minute, so is the administration sticking to the two-state solution and threatening to pressure Israel to achieve it, or is it preparing itself for a binational state, and therefore has no need to exert pressure for a two-state solution?
Perhaps the administration in fact doesn’t know what it wants, or how the hell to scare the Israelis? After all, even the warning that the status quo is dangerous is just talk. The fact is, the occupation has gone on for decades now and no disaster has happened. Here and there a military operation, a few dozen Israelis or Palestinians killed, a closure of 1.8 million Gazans, a few thousand prisoners and detainees, but all-in-all it’s not Syria or Yemen. It’s not a strategic conflict that will drag Russia, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Qatar into a regional war if it remains unresolved.
A Western diplomat told me this week that his superiors suggested he file fewer reports on events on the Temple Mount or in the territories. “Nobody has time or interest in reading those reports,” they explained to him. He is not alone. He hears the same thing from his colleagues in Israel.
It would be interesting to know which “international community” Rhodes is speaking for and what precisely is the meaning of the “concern” that will fill the hearts of the international community and the United States if a two-state solution does not prevail. Perhaps they will not make do with marking products from the settlements, but will expand that terrible punishment to products manufactured in East Jerusalem?
Education Minister Naftali Bennett has an excellent answer to this threat: The world needs Israeli inventions, he explained. As far as he is concerned, it is Israel that can impose sanctions on the world, not the other way around. What more can the international community do? Not sell Israel F35s? Cut the aid funding? Not invite Netanyahu to the Elysee Palace? Dear friends, don’t try to scare us. We are not alone in the world. An invitation to the Kremlin is no less respectable. India is also an excellent place for a state visit.
A binational state will not scare us. We’ve been living for 67 years now in a binational state, with Arab Israelis. We are experts at excluding minorities, removing them from the public sphere, denying them their rights and delegitimizing them. No Israeli government will annex 5.5 million more Palestinians, not including East Jerusalem, which in any case they want to empty of Palestinians.
By the way, has anyone asked the Palestinians if they have decided to give up their dream of their own national state? Have they agreed to a binational state? Where did the strange idea come from that, absent a diplomatic solution, a binational state is the only option. Are we Turkey, which is being asked to give equal rights to the Kurds? Iraq, whose government is obligated to regard the Sunni minority as equal to the Shi’ite majority? We have the occupation, which saves us from a binational state.
So here, too, please keep quiet. There is of course another solution, like the one that birthed the agreement with Iran, but perish the thought of imposing sanctions on Israel. In Israel such a suggestion is against the law. Just a thought.