With Minneapolis at ground zero in the struggle for equality in America, it’s hard for us in the Twin Cities to think about struggles in other parts of the globe just now. But in Israel, a grim crossroads is approaching.
First, a quick review: Following a two-year process led by Jared Kushner, the Trump administration unveiled its plan to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in January. The process didn’t involve Palestinians, and both the delivery and substance of the plan displayed contempt for Palestinian interests. The map of the territory proposed for Palestinians was a disjointed patchwork of islands entirely encircled by Israeli territory. The message, unmistakably, was take or it leave it. As Kushner himself put it, if the Palestinians reject this “great deal … they’re going to screw up another opportunity, like they’ve screwed up every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence.” Who could resist that invitation to negotiate? The Palestinian leadership could, and they rejected the “offer.”
As it turned out, the deal wasn’t take it or leave it. It was take it — or we’ll go ahead without you. Last spring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set a target date of July 1 for beginning the process of annexing West Bank territory. That date passed, but the government’s intention has not changed; it appears merely to be working out some details. The goal is for territory now held and controlled by Israel to become part of Israel proper — a move the international community has condemned as a violation of international law. One may fairly surmise that any land absorbed into Israel in this fait accompli will never again be part of an effort to carve out a two-state solution. And as Palestinians see their hopes of a true, viable state fade, there will be more despair, more pain, more violence and more inhumanity.
You don’t have to pick a side to see the disaster unfolding. If you count yourself a friend of Israel, you see an Israel poised to buy itself an intolerable and unending security problem — rather than trying to solve its security problem by coming to grips with the legitimate claims of Palestinians to land, statehood and self-determination. The threat to Israel’s security has been recognized by former Israeli security officials, 25 of whom raised the alarm in a letter to Congress last year, and 220 of whom wrote to their own government this year to warn against annexation. And if you recognize the moral force of the Palestinian claims — and the daily reality of Palestinian experience under military rule — you see not just a security disaster but a moral and human rights one. American Jews increasingly are on both sides at once: We support Israel, but not actions by the Israeli government that compromise our values and jeopardize Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.
Federal legislators, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, have spoken out against unilateral annexation of the West Bank. But as long as the Trump administration continues to acquiesce, annexation is all too likely to go forward, and soon. The best hope is that a new administration will stop the process before it becomes irreversible. Without change, the two-state solution that some of us have waited a lifetime to see will become an even more remote prospect, along with peace and justice, because as in America, where there is no justice, there is no peace.