An Epic Battle on the Two-State Solution
An epic battle took place a week ago in Washington at the Saban Forum on the Middle East, Israel-US relations and the Arab-Israeli conflict. You probably never learned about it because American media virtually ignored it.
The battle occurred in a conversation between Martin Indyk, and Naftali Bennett.
Bennett is the Chairman of Jewish Home Party which was part of Israel’s governing coalition until it was ended a couple of days later. He served as Minister of Economy and Minister of Religious Services, Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs. Prior to starting his career in politics in 2006 he co-founded a technology company and sold his interest to an American company for $145 million. He is adamantly opposed to the two state solution and a very strong proponent of the settler movement.
Indyk has spent the last two decades trying to get agreement on a two-state solution (TSS). First as part of the State Department’s Mideast team under Bill Clinton, then as ambassador to Israel (twice), and more recently as President Obama’s envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Indyk has always pursued his goal of forcing Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.
It should be noted that there is considerable animosity in Israel towards Indyk because he has a record of blaming Israel for the failure of the peace negotiations and particularly blaming the proponents of the settler movement. He has been very disparaging.
To add fuel to the fire, Indyk is the vice president of the Brookings Institution, who hosted the conference. Recently it was disclosed that Brookings receives $14.8 million from Qatar, who is also a major financier of Hamas. Because of this, Indyk has been accused of bias in his role as peace mediator for the US. Jan Sokolovsky in American Thinker questioned whether Brookings was in violation of the Foreign Agent’s Registration Act by not registering as a foreign agent.
Indyk started the conversation off by jokingly reporting on his earlier discussion with Bennett in which Bennett said, with a smile on his face, “I am going to kick your ass.” and he replied, “I am going to kick yours.”
In early November, the New York Times published an Op-Ed by Bennett under the title, For Israel, Two-State Is No Solution and Indyk started by referring to it. In it Bennett had nixed the TSS as not achievable and laid out his plan, which included annexing Area C and giving citizenship to the 80,000 Arabs living there. The Oslo Accords agreed to by both Arafat and Israel in 1995 divided Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) into three areas, namely A, B and C. Israel retained complete control of Area C which is about 60% of the land and contains over 350,0000 Israelis and 80,000 Arabs. It does not include Jerusalem which Israel annexed after the ’67 war.
Bennett started his answer by attacking the TSS and those who support it. He said “the reality is, it’s not working”, “face reality”, “wishing a plan doesn’t make it real” and “not every plan (problem) in life has a solution.” Instead of having all these peace conferences we should be focused on making life better for both Jews and Arabs living there.
Indyk responded with: “What do you do about the price tag settlers and the burning of the olive trees and the attacks on the Palestinian villages? I mean, life isn’t exactly hunky dory for the Palestinians. How do you propose to deal with that?” Price tag settlers is the name given to Israelis who exact a price for Arab terror attacks. This happens very little and entails a very small price.
Bennett didn’t take issue with this but he should have. While there have been price tag events and allegations of settlers burning olive trees, they pale into insignificance compared to the Arab terror attacks and Arab theft of Area C land. Proponents of the TSS, including Indyk, always point out Israel’s minor transgressions while ignoring the context and the major Arab transgressions. This is wrong.
“And then, in Jerusalem, you never mentioned Jerusalem in your op-ed piece, but what are you going to do there? Jerusalem at the moment is kind of burning and you’ve got 300,000 Palestinians there, and you’ve declared, in another place, I think you said ‘1967 lines means the division of Jerusalem. We will never agree to give up a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and only Israel’.
“And so what exactly is the plan that you have to deal with the situation that Palestinians don’t want to be under your rule, that Jerusalem today is actually divided? It’s as if you’ve waved a magic wand and dismissed all of the problems that come from the fact that the Palestinians don’t want to live under Israeli rule.”
Bennett replied by saying he was against all violence and continued “I think we’ve not treated Jerusalem enough as part and parcel of Israel. The quality of life for the Arabs living there has not been good enough.”
“We need to be providing all services to them, but, at the same time, the second prong is have zero tolerance for lawlessness”.
Indyk interrupted him to ask how he defines Jerusalem and asked, “Why do you need them (300,000 Arabs who live there) as part of Jewish Jerusalem. They clearly don’t want to be there -- “
Bennett said he strongly disagreed and “the last thing they want -- is to be under the corrupt Palestinian Authority.”
“By no means ever will I agree to divide Jerusalem. By no means will I ever agree to share the sovereignty of Jerusalem.” To drive this point home he recalled that a few months before proclaiming Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948, Ben Gurion, a secular Jew, upon hearing the advice of his rational generals that Jerusalem had to be abandoned to save Israel, rejected their advice and “was irrational, if you will, about it because he understood that Israel without Jerusalem is Israel without a soul.”
Indyk then moved on to the proposed annexation of Area C, arguing that no Israeli government has proposed such a thing and the reason being
“that the world will not accept that. There’s no country in the world, including and maybe especially the United States, that will accept it.” He didn’t stop there and said “how are you going to deal with the consequence of EU sanctions which are likely to come about? I mean, annexation will cause an incredible furor in the international world. There will be Security Council resolutions. There will be boycotts. How are you going to deal with the consequences of this idea of yours?”
Bennett started by saying that when Israel annexed Jerusalem, the world didn’t accept it and when she annexed the Golan, the same, implying of course that the world will learn to accept the annexation of Area C. He might also have mentioned that the world condemned Israel for bombing Iraq’s nuclear facilities only to later acknowledge that it was a good thing that Israel did it.
Indyk accused Bennett of avoiding the question and Bennett shot back, accusing Indyk of avoiding listening to reality. Indyk asked again “How do you deal with the consequences of sanctions, international isolation -- de-legitimization, and a basic fundamental crisis in your relationship with the United States.”
Bennett gave a lengthy reply that’s worth reading in full.
“So, first of all, you know -- this is a process. I’m not suggesting that, you know, one day in midday we just do that. There’s a process of changing the global view of what’s going on here and it has to start with that, and that’s why I’m sitting here right now because I want to present a different approach to Israel’s future, a different one from the one that keeps on saying this is an occupied land, it belongs to the Palestinians, these are oppressors, you’re occupying. And it takes time. It’s an uphill battle.
“There’s a lot of groundwork because we have to undo the decades of nonsense that the peace industry has been fomenting and bringing up to a position where the world thinks that we’re occupiers in our own land.
“But if something is false and it’s repeated enough times, it becomes sort of common wisdom. We have to undo that. And it starts by being true. All right? You can’t be an occupier in your own land. So I would come to our friends, okay, to, you know, the President and say, listen, here’s the deal. We don’t agree. You think that we need to give up our land to the ’67 lines, plus/minus, swap it, whatever. I don’t. My people don’t. We think that would be tantamount to national suicide. Okay, so now we don’t agree. We have a different vision.”
Part of the problem, Bennett acknowledged, is that “we’re inconsistent. You can’t say that you favor a Palestinian state and then build communities there.” What he is saying is that Israel must abandon the TSS and keep building.
Indyk shifted to the alleged demographic threat. Bennett in effect said, what demographic threat, and argued there was no such thing.
Bennett expressed concerns about 6 million refugees coming back in the advent of a deal. Indyk sought to allay his fears
Indyk said that Palestinian refugees in Jordan are not interested in going back to the West Bank. Bennett did not challenge this but should have. If a TSS was achieved, they would flood back into Palestine for a better economic future and because they are discriminated against in Jordan.
Indyk didn’t leave it at that. He was remarkably candid. “The Palestinians in the West Bank are in no hurry to bring Palestinian refugees back.” But Bennett shot back, “Yeah, but the Palestinian refugees are in a hurry to get back”.
And then things got really testy.
Indyk said, “I really don’t think you know what’s going on.”
Bennett came back strongly,
“I exactly do and I’ll go into everything. I’m not afraid of talking about anything, so don’t tell me you don’t want to go. I want to go everywhere and talk about reality. And the reality is that when we have 6 million Palestinian refugees from Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria flowing into Israel, you know what’s going to happen? They’re going to get to Ramallah and the Arabs are going to say, whoa, whoa, whoa, don’t put your tent here. You never lived in Ramallah. You lived in Lidia, you lived in Haifa. Don’t even stop.”
MR. INDYK: It’s just fear mongering. It’s not based on reality.
MINISTER BENNETT: The only fear mongering is telling us that the world’s going to be angry and that the demography is against us.
MR. INDYK: I, as a Jew, who cares about Israel’s survival and cares about solving that.
MINISTER BENNETT: And, of course, you know better than the Israeli public.
MR. INDYK: No, I don’t and don’t imagine to know better than the Israeli public.
Score another point for Naftali Bennett. But Indyk didn’t give up.
MR. INDYK: You know, I just think you live in another reality. It’s what Steve Jobs called distorted reality thinking.
MINISTER BENNETT: You know, I love that sentence. I live in another reality. I’ve been in the First Intifada, the Second Intifada.
MR. INDYK: So you would know --
MINISTER BENNETT: -- more than all those conferences that you live in a different reality.
“How many missiles need to fall on Ashkelon until you’ll wake up? How many? How many people need to die in our country until you wake up from this illusion? You know, the Oslo process took more than a thousand lives in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem, and I didn’t hear anyone say, you know what, I made a mistake. When are you going to wake up?
“We pulled out of the Gaza Strip. We were clobbered by thousands of missiles. When we go defend ourselves, the world calls us murderers. You know, you talked about our international position. Let’s talk about that. What were the three worst events for Israel’s international standing over the past decade? It was Cast Lead, it was Marmalah, and it was the last summer. Where did it happen? Did it happen in Shoham, Nablus, in Ramallah? It happened in Gaza.
“So what do I learn? Does the world praise us? Did the world say you go get them because they’re shooting without any reason at my family? No, the world said you’re murderers.
“I was there on Sky News, CNN, BBC. I saw it. So anyone who thinks that Israel will somehow become loved, beloved by the world if we just give up another piece of land, I don’t need to guess, we’ve seen it roll out. So if anyone’s living in illusion…”
Indyk then made a 180 degree turnaround and agreed, “It’s about Israel’s future, not about an applause meter in the Arab -- in the world.” Exactly.
There is much more to their heated encounter. I recommend you watch the video of it to fully appreciate the battle of ideas that took place.