The Israeli public is in no mood today to give Palestinians a state, but the U.S. keeps pushing it.
By The Editorial Board, WSJ Jan. 18, 2024
Liberal policy on the Middle East is like a machine with a part missing. No matter the input, its output stays the same. Hamas launches the most gruesome invasion of Israel imaginable? Create a Palestinian state. The Palestinian Authority glorifies the massacre, prepares to compensate the killers and pledges solidarity with Hamas? Create a Palestinian state.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken laid out in Davos on Wednesday the perennially failing solution to Middle East problems. “If you take a regional approach, and if you pursue integration with security, with a Palestinian state, all of a sudden you have a region that’s come together in ways that answer the most profound questions that Israel has tried to answer for years,” he said. “Iran is suddenly isolated,” he envisioned, “and will have to make decisions about what it wants its future to be.”
Special points for Mr. Blinken’s use of “all of a sudden.” Presto, peace.
Tehran wants to erase the Jewish state from the map, but the main obstacle Mr. Blinken sees to his plan is Israel. “When in previous times we came close to resolving the Palestinian question, getting a Palestinian state,” he said, “I think the view then—Camp David, other places—was that Arab leaders, Palestinian leaders, had not done enough to prepare their own people for this profound change. I think a challenge now, a question now: Is Israeli society prepared to engage on these questions? Is it prepared to have that mind-set?”
In other words, the Oct. 7 attack and broad Palestinian support for it have demonstrated that Palestinians now want to make a deal for peaceful coexistence. Why in the world would Israel hesitate?
If this sounds bizarre, recall that it was the liberal internationalist reflex throughout the 1990s. The more Palestinian terrorism Yasser Arafat unleashed, the more Israelis had to prove they were committed to peace.
Senior Biden Administration officials leaked to NBC this week that Mr. Blinken is ready to revive the peace process: Arab states will help rebuild a Palestinian-run Gaza if Israel signs on to a new pathway to a Palestinian state. “Blinken told [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu that ultimately there is no military solution to Hamas,” NBC reports.
Unwarranted defeatism about the war gives way to untethered optimism in diplomacy. Apparently, political concessions to terrorism are the only way forward.
On Thursday Mr. Netanyahu confirmed that he told the U.S. there’s no chance of that. “In all the territory we evacuate, we get terror,” he said. Accordingly, NBC reports, “three senior U.S. officials say the Biden administration is looking past Netanyahu to try to achieve its goals in the region.”
But by pushing a Palestinian state at this unpromising juncture, at the summit of Palestinian violence and rejectionism, the Administration is handing Mr. Netanyahu a lifeline. He gets to stand up to President Biden on behalf of the overwhelming majority of Israelis.
Take it from Israeli President Isaac Herzog, a Netanyahu opponent and former Labor Party leader. “If you ask an average Israeli now,” he said Thursday, “nobody in his right mind is willing now to think about what will be the solution of the peace agreements.”
Israelis are focused on winning a war the Palestinians started, and the extent of Israel’s recent advance in southern and central Gaza is underappreciated. In the Biden Administration’s eagerness for a foreign-policy success, it shouldn’t forget that the more thorough the Hamas defeat, the more room Israel will have to compromise. Victory would do the most to pave the way to peace.