With or Without Netanyahu, No Two-State Solution Is Coming

Opinion: Israel's haters should direct their frustration toward the Palestinians, not Israeli leaders

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin (R) tasks Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with forming new government, Sept. 25, 2019 / Getty

Western progressives are no doubt horrified that, on Wednesday, Israeli president Reuven Rivlin tasked current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with forming Israel's next government. Netanyahu has until Oct. 24 to form a governing coalition of at least 61 of the 120 members in the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Currently, 55 members of the Knesset have recommended Netanyahu for prime minister, while the premier's rival, Benny Gantz, has secured 54 recommendations. Rivlin, who said Netanyahu has a better chance of obtaining the necessary support, originally offered Gantz and Netanyahu an opportunity to form a unity government, under which the political rivals would rotate as prime minister. Both men refused the offer.

Progressives are horrified because they believe Netanyahu is, along with President Trump, responsible for destroying the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and thus any hope of a two-state solution. Earlier this month, for example, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) described Netanyahu's stated intention to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley—a step that Israel has the legal right to do and that Gantz, too, has said he would take as prime minister—as "the nail in the coffin to a two-state solution or any peace deal." Rep. Ro Khanna (D., Calif.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) similarly said at the time that Netanyahu would "shatter what is left of a two-state solution" and "make a two-state solution nearly impossible."

Never mind that the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state—thus rejecting the foundation of a two-state solution—and that they have repeatedly rejected offers of statehood, including remarkably generous Israeli proposals. Netanyahu is still the problem.

Progressives also regard Netanyahu as a foreign Trump, a corrupt and racist authoritarian destroying liberal democracy. In March, Sanders warned against equating "anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the right-wing, Netanyahu government in Israel," and in a speech last year, the senator accused "Israel's Netanyahu government" of giving non-Jewish citizens "second-class status." Even establishment, centrist Democrats seem to share progressives' antipathy for Netanyahu—antipathy that led left-wing members of Congress to call on Israelis to vote against the premier.

These voices fail to recognize that Gantz as prime minister would be Netanyahu-lite—a man with very similar positions on security and foreign and defense policy, just with less flair for the dramatic. Gantz would bomb Hamas in Gaza, strike Iranian targets across the Middle East, and not change Israeli policy toward the Palestinians in the West Bank in any meaningful way. "Jerusalem will always be Israel's undivided capital, and the Jordan Valley will always be our eastern security border," he said in March. The main differences between the two men concern internal matters, most of which should not particularly concern the West.

Ironically for progressives, a Gantz premiership would reveal that they really hate the Jewish state, not just Netanyahu, whom they could no longer use as their bogeyman. Look at how progressives single out Israel's treatment of religion and its approach to the Palestinians while ignoring all other comparable examples: logically, how can one reach a different conclusion?

Moreover, these anti-Israel activists, commentators, and politicians have a bizarre obsession with the Jewish state, demonizing and delegitimizing it when, by all relevant standards, other countries ruled by non-democratic regimes are far more deserving of such treatment. Indeed, they often say Israel governs by apartheid and commits ethnic cleansing, if not genocide, against the Palestinians. Such accusations are of course absurd. The Palestinian populations in Gaza and the West Bank have skyrocketed over the last 50 years, and Arabs comprise about 20 percent of Israel's population. Israel, it seems, is remarkably bad at genocide and ethnic cleansing. And regarding apartheid, Israel's election last week should—but won't—put an end to such accusations. The Joint List, an alliance of Israel's main Arab political parties, won the third most seats in parliament, only trailing Gantz and Netanyahu's parties. And most of the Joint List's members even recommended Gantz as prime minister—not because they like the former general, but because they loathe Netanyahu. Many of these Arab parties are deeply hostile toward Israel's policies, yet they are comprised of Israelis who enjoy equal rights and can have a significant influence in government. Israel is failing miserably at instituting apartheid.

The success of Joint List raises a question that few people, especially Israel's critics, have asked: Why don't the Palestinians have a Joint List of Jewish parties?

There are two reasons, neither of which Israel's haters want to hear. First, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs the West Bank, is authoritarian and does not hold elections—President Mahmoud Abbas is still serving a four-year term that began in 2005. Second, and more importantly, the Palestinians want a state free of Jews. This is the harsh reality: Israelis welcome Arabs in Israel—they just don't want Palestinian terrorists to kill them—while Palestinians don't want Jews in a future Palestine simply because they're Jews. Look at Palestinian law, under which selling or attempting to sell land to Jews is a crime, punishable by hard labor, imprisonment, and even execution. Also under Palestinian law, the PA allocates hundreds of millions of dollars of its annual budget to reward terrorists who murder Jews and Israelis. Add the fact that Palestinian leadership refuses to accept Jews' right to self-determination, and it would appear the Palestinians are actually the ones who want ethnic cleansing.

As Israel's chaotic electoral politics play out over the next several weeks, progressives will fume about Palestinian rights—especially as Netanyahu is in position to remain prime minister. But, in the wake of Israel's election, progressives who genuinely want a two-state solution should not direct their ire at Israeli leadership. Instead, they should direct their gaze toward the Palestinians, who do not even have regular elections and are the ones seeking a regime of apartheid. And that is just the PA, let alone Hamas, the only governing alternative for Palestinians, a genocidal organization whose sole purpose is to destroy Israel.

The truth is, no matter who heads Israel's government, a two-state solution will remain elusive. Only when the Palestinians have their own Joint Jewish List winning seats in parliament will there maybe, just maybe be peace at last.