To Save Israel, Two States Is Still the Solution

Clashes in the West Bank
Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli troops during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Qadomem, the West Bank, December 30, 2016. Two days earlier U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had criticized Israel's settlement building. Mohamad Torokman

On New Year's weekend, rather than succumb to the temptation to drown all thoughts of the immediate future and the recent past with premium champagne, I spent my time writing to members of the U.S. Congress.

I was troubled by the reaction to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's balanced and reasoned speech on December 28, in which he reaffirmed our country's longstanding policy with regard to Israel. (Secretary Kerry's speech came five days after the U.S. abstained from a U.N. security council resolution demanding that Israel stop building settlements on Palestinian land.)

Following the backlash against Secretary Kerry, I wrote to various representatives asking them to join him in declaring that the U.S.' objective for Israel remains two sovereign states—and that settlement expansion is inimical to that goal.

Lest you doubt my pro-Israel bona fides, I am the granddaughter on one side of Eastern European Jews whose extended family survived Russian pogroms and the Nazi Holocaust, and on the other, I am the granddaughter of survivors of the Armenian genocide. Consequently Israel, which has provided a safe haven for both peoples, could hardly mean more to me. I would never advocate—or urge others to promote—policies or practices that threaten its security or its democratic founding principles.

To accuse people like me, who have a fundamental attachment to Israel, of supporting people who want to destroy it is not only wrong, but willfully, maliciously so. Vilifying those of us who believe that a safe national home for Jewish people is one that does not rely on the illegal appropriation of Palestinian land, is one of the many ways settlement advocates justify to themselves a position that is without justification.

Related: Mahmoud Abbas: I Will Restart Peace Talks If Israel Freezes Settlement Construction

Having been to the region many times, I'm baffled by the insistence of so many that settlement expansion is not an obstacle to peace. Although surely not the only obstacle, in his speech, Secretary Kerry characterized the settlement movement correctly, as having nothing to do with ensuring Israel's security, and much more to do with rendering a contiguous Palestinian state impossible to attain.

His critics say he's wrong, citing Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who insists that he has made many offers to negotiate with Palestinian leaders, and all have been refused. No surprise though, if you understand the terms of those offers. The Jerusalem-based legal scholar and two-state advocate Daniel Seidemann puts it this way: Would you agree to negotiate how you're going to divide a pizza while your adversary is allowed to eat it slice by slice as discussions ensue?

Unlike many previous, prejudicial U.N. Security Council resolutions, the one that passed on December 23 was well-balanced in calling out Palestinian aggression and decrying terrorism, as well as in opposing the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, which challenges the support Israel receives worldwide, and is anathema to me as well.

Moreover, Secretary Kerry's speech was entirely consistent with U.S. policy throughout decades of both Republican and Democratic administrations. And to those who insist that President Barack Obama, who has met or exceeded all of Israel's requests for defense funds, is intent on its destruction, I would cite the 21 U.N. resolutions that Ronald Reagan allowed to pass which were critical of Israel and the fact that George W. Bush voted in favor of a resolution that called for Israel to freeze settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

My letters to Congress derive from a longtime commitment to the survival of Israel as a safe, secure, democratic home for Jewish people, and my commensurate commitment to a resolution on a conflict that has doomed generations of Palestinian youth to a life without hope. I perceive what the current administration has done—in abstaining on the December 23 resolution—to be in the interests of both.

In my messages, I have asked representatives to vote "no" on any bill or resolution that complicates or confounds the pursuit of a two-state solution, and to vote "no" on any bill or resolution that reverses the U.S.' commitment to that goal. It's my hope that upon reflection and review, and in consideration of the support the administration's action has drawn from a number of former U.S. ambassadors to Israel as well as the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, even those legislators who have spoken against the abstention will reconsider and publicly revise their critique.

The situation in Israel, always fragile, is at a pivotal point with an incoming administration openly hostile to the two-state solution the U.S. has sought for so long. It is my hope that Congress will act on behalf of the preservation of a democratic Israel at peace with a viable Palestinian homeland, and support adhering to our decades-old commitment to two states.

Diana Shaw Clark has lived in London for 17 years. She has spent her time in the British capital organizing Americans living abroad in support of Democratic party candidates.