Leaving the Table

Jewish Light Editorial

Let’s get this out of the way right at the outset: Roger Waters is pompous and detestable.

The former Pink Floyd member is a radical antagonist of Israel and, according to many, including Abraham Foxman, longtime head of the Anti-Defamation League, a “narrow-minded bigot.” As narrator of a hardcore anti-Israel documentary that recently aired in Sweden, Waters continues to conflate Israel with Nazi Germany, utilizing tactics that prove ethnic hatred can emanate from the far left just as much as from the alt-right.

A major problem beyond Waters’ bigotry, however, is that he and his ilk are lending public credence to those backing away from the longtime status quo that says only a two-state solution can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And departing from that previously accepted stance is a very, very bad thing indeed.

Why is Waters complicit in this trend? Because his animus provides ammo for the far right, which can then point to the vileness of such voices as indicative of no prospects for negotiated peace. And that rhetorical spigot enables a drift to the highly precarious, ultraconservative corner from which it will become harder and harder to extricate a blueprint for peace. 

Proof of this withdrawal from what has been a decades-old (and in our view, correct) analysis that only two states can solve the problem is evident in how certain swaths of the American political scene have abandoned commitment to that negotiated solution.

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Earlier this year, the Republican Party formally changed direction. It removed insistence on a two-state solution from its platform, and the party’s leaders have by and large been echoing the more combative, less diplomatic stance of the rightist Israeli leadership coalition.

The ties between the Republicans and the administration of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were not new news this year, of course. Anyone who follows world or national news recalls how last year, the majority leaders in Congress invited the Israeli leader to speak before that body, an apparent break with protocol and contrary to the urging of President Barack Obama.

The platform change reflects a cynicism about several things. First and foremost, it relies on the current lack of Palestinian leadership committed to peace and security, a fact that we acknowledge is hard to deny. Second, it points to the large number of on-the-ground terror assaults in Israel over the past couple of years, exacerbated most recently by acts of arson that appear to have contributed to wildfires throughout Israel.

But the abandonment of hope for, and action toward, a negotiated peace is not accompanied by rational thought about what an alternative path might bring. Most detractors of the two-state construct are willing to gamble that settlement expansion, demographic changes and Israel’s various strengths — military, natural resources, economic and political, the latter including a rock-solid U.S. relationship — will win the day.

While we, too, are impressed by Israel’s many great attributes, they’re not enough to stave off continued world hostility, constant condemnations and perpetual violence. Only a safe, secure and lasting agreement with assurances of international support has the potential to do so.

Though refuting the two-state structure is in our view a perilous place to be, it’s no surprise that there are American political forces that will follow Israel down this risk-laden and highly speculative path. There are Israel support groups, most notably the Zionist Organization of America, who side with the Republican voices unwilling to encourage, or as some would say, push, Israel toward the bargaining table at every turn.

Yet this is where far-left haters like Waters are making the situation far, far worse. For by trying to isolate Israel, via the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), or through false apartheid or Nazi equivalences, or just by plain contemptible anti-Semitism, Waters and company are handing the Fear Factor constituency to the right, justifying conservatives’ views that they are not only Israel’s best friends, but their only ones.

Support for continued commitment to a two-state solution was recently expressed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak while in St. Louis for the St. Louis Speakers Series. Barak said we must “never say never” to a possible two-state solution. If such a solution is not found, he said, Israel would either cease being a true democracy by having to rule over 2 million or more Palestinians, or it would cease being a truly Jewish State.

If Waters and others in his camp were sincere in seeking peace and a better quality of life for Palestinians, they’d avoid sweeping vitriol and grab the broad middle swath by continuing to insist on a two-state solution (which the Democratic Party platform, AIPAC and many other Jewish groups continue to embrace). 

Instead, by falsely presenting Israel to the world as a rogue  nation, they’re simply loading the rifles for diplomacy’s opponents who would succumb to a state of constant violence rather than a hopeful, albeit remote, prospect of Israeli-Palestinian peace. We want no part of that desolate future. 

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