Biden, do you really believe in the two state solution?

With formation of the Netanyahu government, President Biden announced that he looks forward to working with the new prime minister to promote comprehensive regional peace between Israelis and Palestinians. An official statement from the White House noted that “the United States will continue to support the two state solution and to oppose policies that endanger its viability or contradict our mutual interests and values.” Indeed, within a very short time, the two figures in charge of American foreign and security policy, Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor at the White House, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, will visit Israel to promote cooperation with the current government. Blinken also added that he will judge Netanyahu’s sixth government “according to the policies it promotes, and not according to the personalities of its members.”

However, it seems that these preliminary statements of the American administration left no impression on Netanyahu and his partners. They have already locked themselves in coalition agreements with the parties of Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, whose values are the polar opposite to those of the Biden administration. The two leave no room for doubt that the two-state solution has been deeply buried. Moreover, there is not one single political party in Israel today, on either the right or left, that believes in this solution. In fact, Biden and his administration offer a solution which no political force in Israel believes can be implemented. The basic guidelines of the new government clearly state: “The Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all parts of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop settlement in all parts of the Land of Israel, in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan and Judea and Samaria.”

While the American representatives are packing their suitcases for their visits to Israel, the sixth Netanyahu government is hastening to pass the laws necessary so the coalition agreements will not remain only on paper. Even before formation of the government, the Knesset had already enacted the Smotrich Law, making him a minister in the Defense Ministry in addition to being the finance minister. The goal is to transfer to him the Civil Administration, hitherto subordinate to the military’s Central Command commander and responsible for managing the lives of the Palestinians and settlers living in this area. Smotrich’s goal is to “naturalize” the military government, an act that means the practical annexation of the territories under Israel’s exclusive control and which contain all the settlements. As a complementary step, Justice Minister Yariv Levin has announced a regime change that leaves the executive, legislative and judicial powers in the hands of one-person, Prime Minister Netanyahu.

While the Biden administration clings to the two-state solution, the reality on the ground proves that this solution has become irrelevant. Already during Netanyahu’s first visit to the White House, President Trump announced that the two-state solution was dead, and worked with all his might to ensure its death. Trump moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, announced the “deal of the century” allowing the annexation of settlements to Israel, and turned the Palestinian state into a canton under Israeli sovereignty. When the Palestinian Authority refused to cooperate with this hallucinatory plan, Jared Kushner engineered for Netanyahu the Abraham Accords that skip over the Palestinians entirely and ignore their rights. In fact, this regional peace abandoned peace with the Palestinians, under the auspices of Arab countries including Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan and the Gulf countries, and all with enthusiastic American support.

Although the Biden administration opposes any trace of Trump’s policies or decisions in the USA itself, it warmly embraces the Abraham Accords, leaves the embassy in Jerusalem while simultaneously declaring its support for the two-state solution. This is an irreconcilable contradiction: the autocratic Arab states, dictators and kings, abandoned the Palestinian issue and reached agreements with Israel. There is no party in Israel that raises the Palestinian issue at the center of its platform. Even Meretz, which advocated a two-state solution, gave up its principles to join the Government of Change (GoC) led by the head of Yemina party (To the Right), Naftali Bennett, alas, this did not help because it remained outside the current Knesset. You’ll recall that all members of the GoC decided to give up pursuing all conflicting ideological issues, with the aim of overthrowing Bibi Netanyahu. He indeed fell, until he rose again.

It seems that the Biden administration has decided to hide behind the two state solution as a cover for inaction on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. This is an impractical declaration whose sole purpose is pay lip service. The current administration is not taking any real steps to promote this solution whose only goal is to prevent the final collapse of the Palestinian Authority. The truth is that the Palestinian issue does not appear on Biden’s list of priorities. The three main issues that preoccupy him are the fight to save American democracy from fascism, the fight against Putin’s imperial ambitions in Ukraine, and limiting the spread of Chinese influence throughout the world.

Furthermore, the “values” the Biden administration talks about are diametrically opposed to the values of the Netanyahu government. Biden supports Ukraine, Netanyahu supports Putin; Biden fights China, Netanyahu cooperates with it; Biden fights Mohammed bin Salman, Netanyahu embraces him; Biden is fighting Victor Urban, Netanyahu supports him; Biden despises Trump, Netanyahu supports him and his associates. It follows, therefore, that the political reality in Israel on the one hand, and the corrupt and failed nature of the Palestinian Authority on the other, leave the Biden administration powerless in pursuit of true and fair peace between the two peoples.

It is worthwhile for a moment to rise above the Abraham Accords and the extreme nature of the present coalition in Israel, and examine the geographical, economic and political reality created in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which appears in the coalition agreements as the Land of Israel. We can easily demonstrate that the reality that has emerged is of one country, as Alon Pinkas describes it in his article in Haaretz from January 8, 2023: “28 years after the signing of the Paris Protocol in 1995, which regulated the economic relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, they have practically become one economic unit. It is true that Israel has no control over the allocation of the Palestinian internal budget, but there is one currency, one tax envelope, one foreign trade. 55% of Palestinian imports originate in Israel, and 80% of Palestinian exports are destined for Israel. About 80 thousand Palestinians are employed in Israel in construction and another 15 thousand in industry and services. If someone is looking for signs and evidence of de facto annexation, even if unintentional and not planned, the Palestinian economy is the place to look.”

All this is true, but it is not the full picture. Although the economic reality shows a de facto annexation, it does not refer at all to a political reality that maintains two separate sets of laws in the territory. While Israelis enjoy democracy, the Palestinians live under a military regime that denies them the most basic civil and human rights. Such a reality cannot be maintained in the long term: hundreds of deaths, including children, house demolitions, checkpoints and the prohibition of freedom of movement, expropriation of land, poor to non-existent health services and infrastructure, which turn the lives of the Palestinians into hell. In light of the reality that has been taking shape for over fifty years, it is time to recognize the fact that the only solution that can bring peace and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians exists solely within the framework of one, egalitarian and democratic state, which will give equal expression to the desires of both peoples.

The Biden administration must recognize this reality and remain consistent and loyal to the principles he proclaims: fighting autocracy and supporting democracy, judging governments according to their respect for human rights, recognizing the right of peoples to liberty, freedom and self-determination, fighting all types of racism, protecting minority rights, working for a green and egalitarian economy to save the earth from global warming, and humanity from tyranny of all types The government of Israel, which declared Israel a Jewish state and has an exclusive right to the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, does not uphold any of the principles about which the Biden administration talks, and on the basis of which it strives for cooperation with Bibi’s sixth government.

About Yacov Ben Efrat