End of the Road

In 2008, I was traveling through Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. when I encountered several delegates who had just left AIPAC's annual policy conference. Then-Senator Barack Obama had addressed the conference that morning, in which he tried to soothe concerns of pro-Israel voters. "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided," he declared, to a thunderous standing ovation.

I asked the delegates what they thought of Obama's speech. "He was amazing," one of them gushed. I asked her what she thought he would do about Iran. "Oh, he said that everything is on the table," she reassured me. "Everything." It turns out, two years later, that "everything" includes Jerusalem itself. The Obama administration, breaking its own word and that of previous administrations, wants the Israeli capital on the block.

The consequences go far beyond a few neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. In the eyes of the Palestinians and the Muslim world, Israel is being asked to give up its claims in the Old City as well. Immediately after the Obama administration demanded that Israel stopped building homes in Jewish neighborhoods, Palestinian rioters took to the streets to protest the opening of a restored synagogue in the ancient Jewish Quarter.

Effectively, the Obama administration has made progress towards a two-state solution difficult, if not impossible. Before, the minimum the Palestinians were willing to accept exceeded the maximum the Israelis were prepared to give. Now, the Palestinian minimum has been raised even further. And the Palestinians are not likely to back down -- not while they sense the opportunity that Obama's hostility to Israel presents.

The last several years have taught us that the conflict between Israel and its neighbors is not about borders or settlements. If it were, the Gaza disengagement would have led to greater peace, not greater war. Nor is the conflict about an archetypal tragic struggle between two nations over the same land, as many of us had believed. The Palestinians have shown little interest in building the institutions or the ethos of nationhood.

The conflict is not even about the Palestinian refugees -- a problem that Arab leaders created, and which they could solve themselves, but which they prefer to sustain at American taxpayers' expense. The conflict is about Israel's right to exist, which is still denied by "moderate" Palestinian leaders, which is being regularly challenged at the United Nations, and which is directly threatened by Iranian nuclear ambitions.

The Jerusalem issue has become a Solomonic test, revealing who really cares about the security of Israel. Dividing the city no longer means just ceding Arab neighborhoods or control over the Temple Mount. To the Obama administration, it now means giving up perhaps all of East Jerusalem; to the Palestinians, it means control over the entire Old City as well. To Israel, it means putting its security at risk again, for nothing in return.

The entire foundation of the peace process for the past twenty years has been American guarantees of Israeli security. The Obama administration's condemnation of the Israeli government, and its reluctance to ensure that Iran will not become a nuclear power, indicate that this administration views its alliance with Israel as conditional. That means that Israel cannot afford to take risks for peace that it will have to bear alone.

The result is that the two-state solution is in doubt. And there is no practical alternative. A single state would lead to the destruction of Israel as we know it -- though demographic data on the Palestinian population and birthrate are greatly exaggerated, the large size of the Arab minority would be decisive. A "Jordanian" option depends on the unlikely willingness of the Jordanian monarchy to put its future at risk to save Israel's own.

Unilateral withdrawal would lead to another Hamastan -- this time in the West Bank, far closer to Israel's population centers and industrial heartland. The reality is that the status quo, in which the peace process is in a holding pattern, is better than any of the alternatives. It is even better for Palestinians, who have enjoyed rapid economic growth in the West Bank after many years of intifada that severely damaged the local economy.

The effect of the Obama administration's hostile approach towards its closest ally in the region is that the Middle East Road Map -- the cornerstone of Bush administration policy towards Israel and the Palestinians -- is now obsolete. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, such as it is, must be shelved until the Iranian threat is dealt with -- not least because Iran provides weapons and money to the radical terrorist groups on Israel's borders.

Regardless of whether the Obama administration repairs its relationship with the Netanyahu government, the peace process can no longer be a matter of urgency for the U.S. Palestinian statehood is not a priority, least of all for the Palestinians. The main challenge is still a nuclear Iran, which neither Israel nor the United States can allow. Better to focus on that pressing common interest than to argue over Jerusalem.

Joel B. Pollak is the GOP nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 9th district of Illinois.
In 2008, I was traveling through Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. when I encountered several delegates who had just left AIPAC's annual policy conference. Then-Senator Barack Obama had addressed the conference that morning, in which he tried to soothe concerns of pro-Israel voters. "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided," he declared, to a thunderous standing ovation.

I asked the delegates what they thought of Obama's speech. "He was amazing," one of them gushed. I asked her what she thought he would do about Iran. "Oh, he said that everything is on the table," she reassured me. "Everything." It turns out, two years later, that "everything" includes Jerusalem itself. The Obama administration, breaking its own word and that of previous administrations, wants the Israeli capital on the block.

The consequences go far beyond a few neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. In the eyes of the Palestinians and the Muslim world, Israel is being asked to give up its claims in the Old City as well. Immediately after the Obama administration demanded that Israel stopped building homes in Jewish neighborhoods, Palestinian rioters took to the streets to protest the opening of a restored synagogue in the ancient Jewish Quarter.

Effectively, the Obama administration has made progress towards a two-state solution difficult, if not impossible. Before, the minimum the Palestinians were willing to accept exceeded the maximum the Israelis were prepared to give. Now, the Palestinian minimum has been raised even further. And the Palestinians are not likely to back down -- not while they sense the opportunity that Obama's hostility to Israel presents.

The last several years have taught us that the conflict between Israel and its neighbors is not about borders or settlements. If it were, the Gaza disengagement would have led to greater peace, not greater war. Nor is the conflict about an archetypal tragic struggle between two nations over the same land, as many of us had believed. The Palestinians have shown little interest in building the institutions or the ethos of nationhood.

The conflict is not even about the Palestinian refugees -- a problem that Arab leaders created, and which they could solve themselves, but which they prefer to sustain at American taxpayers' expense. The conflict is about Israel's right to exist, which is still denied by "moderate" Palestinian leaders, which is being regularly challenged at the United Nations, and which is directly threatened by Iranian nuclear ambitions.

The Jerusalem issue has become a Solomonic test, revealing who really cares about the security of Israel. Dividing the city no longer means just ceding Arab neighborhoods or control over the Temple Mount. To the Obama administration, it now means giving up perhaps all of East Jerusalem; to the Palestinians, it means control over the entire Old City as well. To Israel, it means putting its security at risk again, for nothing in return.

The entire foundation of the peace process for the past twenty years has been American guarantees of Israeli security. The Obama administration's condemnation of the Israeli government, and its reluctance to ensure that Iran will not become a nuclear power, indicate that this administration views its alliance with Israel as conditional. That means that Israel cannot afford to take risks for peace that it will have to bear alone.

The result is that the two-state solution is in doubt. And there is no practical alternative. A single state would lead to the destruction of Israel as we know it -- though demographic data on the Palestinian population and birthrate are greatly exaggerated, the large size of the Arab minority would be decisive. A "Jordanian" option depends on the unlikely willingness of the Jordanian monarchy to put its future at risk to save Israel's own.

Unilateral withdrawal would lead to another Hamastan -- this time in the West Bank, far closer to Israel's population centers and industrial heartland. The reality is that the status quo, in which the peace process is in a holding pattern, is better than any of the alternatives. It is even better for Palestinians, who have enjoyed rapid economic growth in the West Bank after many years of intifada that severely damaged the local economy.

The effect of the Obama administration's hostile approach towards its closest ally in the region is that the Middle East Road Map -- the cornerstone of Bush administration policy towards Israel and the Palestinians -- is now obsolete. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, such as it is, must be shelved until the Iranian threat is dealt with -- not least because Iran provides weapons and money to the radical terrorist groups on Israel's borders.

Regardless of whether the Obama administration repairs its relationship with the Netanyahu government, the peace process can no longer be a matter of urgency for the U.S. Palestinian statehood is not a priority, least of all for the Palestinians. The main challenge is still a nuclear Iran, which neither Israel nor the United States can allow. Better to focus on that pressing common interest than to argue over Jerusalem.

Joel B. Pollak is the GOP nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 9th district of Illinois.

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