Elections

06.22.12

Resolved: This is Not the Road to a Two-State Solution

Well, at least reckless Israel resolutions swing both ways.

Earlier this week North Carolina’s Democratic Party considered a resolution that sought to end “Israel’s illegal occupation.” And that’s not all it said: It also called for a “nuclear free zone in the Middle East” i.e. for Israel to entrust its security to a certain holocaust-denying, oft-impersonated Iranian. 

The NC resolution balances another from the South: Earlier this year, Florida’s heavily republican House and Senate both (108-0 and 39-0 respectively) unanimously passed the “Stand With Israel” resolution which stated that Israel is “neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others” and “Jews currently residing in the areas of Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem reside there legitimately.” The Florida resolution appeared to call for a one-state solution: It affirmed “a united Israel governed under one law for all people.” Read: one, Jewish state.  (It is worth pointing out that Florida’s language originated in 2011 in South Carolina and, in January of this year, was also adopted by the Republican National Committee)

If these resolutions sound like they came from BDS and ZOA playbooks, it’s because they probably did—America isn’t on the campaign trail to nuance.

Michael Oren has long argued that support for the Jewish state is inseparable from the very idea of the United States (City on a Hill, Puritans superimposing the geography of Israel over Massachusetts’, etc.). But as the window for a two state solution slides shut, it’s looking more and more like American support for Israel was always shallow—based on an image of Israel as the knight in shining armor. As that image (which was never healthy) becomes harder to sustain, America will likely split along (semi-crazed) party lines. What these resolutions show is not that that Americans lack sophisticated views on the conflict today—but that they never had them to begin with.

In 2011, for instance, a Gallup poll found that pubic support for the Jewish State was stronger in 2010 than at any time since 1991 when Israel was being pummeled by scuds from Iraq.  But according to a different 2010 poll, 84% of Americans also believe that “both Israelis and Palestinians are entitled to equal rights” and a plurality agreed that Palestinians should be afforded the right of return.

Talmudists are welcome to propose ways to reconcile those views, but the fact is, when it comes to Israel-Palestine, it seems that Americans want to have their shwarma and eat it too.

The dimming of the two state horizon is pushing nuance out of the broader American conversation—at least in both North and South Carolina.  And as the two-state option asphyxiates and other options are placed (none too gently) on the table—one state, three states, you name it—we will see fewer and fewer moderate Zionists.  And it’s a vicious cycle: the winding down of the two-state option will push Americans (who, again, were not particularly nuanced to begin with) to the political poles which in turn will lead to more intractability. No one wins when the political field is populated exclusively by the incorrigible right and the bemused left.

America has reached a point where juvenile (albeit nonbinding) resolutions on Israel by state legislatures are a matter of course. And if America—Israel’s strongest ally—isn’t boldly behind two states, it’s hard to know where a two-stater’s supposed to go from here.