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Steve Sheffey's Pro-Israel Political Update

Calling balls and strikes for the pro-Israel community since 2006

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January 28, 2024

Key Takeaways from a longer-than-usual newsletter (they've been running long lately; I'll try to rein them in starting next week):

  • Hamas’s horrific October 7 attack does not alter the reality that Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state depends on achieving a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

  • A two-state solution is not on the horizon. We are talking about it now because a satisfactory outcome post-Gaza depends on progress toward a two-state solution and because recent comments from Prime Minister Netanyahu casting doubt on his government’s commitment to an eventual two-state solution.

  • President Biden is not pressuring Israel but is reiterating the U.S. security and moral interest in a two-state solution and securing Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state. The Democratic Party supports a two-state solution. Hamas, the Likud Party, and the Republican Party do not.

  • A two-state solution is not a favor to the Palestinians or a reward for terrorism (a two-state solution is not what Hamas wants) but an existential necessity for Israel. 

Read to the end for corrections, what you may have missed last week, fun stuff, and our upcoming event with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).

You're welcome to read for free, but if you want to chip in to help defray the cost of the newsletter, click here to pay by credit card or PayPal. Just fill in the amount of your choice. If you see something that says "Save your info and create a PayPal account," click the button to the right and it will go away. You don't need a PayPal accountOr you can Venmo @Steven-Sheffey (last four phone digits are 9479). You can send a check too. But no crypto or gold bars.

Hi Steve,

Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state depends on achieving a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Hamas’s horrific terrorist attack on October 7 does not change that reality. A Palestinian state is not a favor to the Palestinians or a reward for terrorism. A Palestinian state is a necessity for Israel’s safety and security and is antithetical to the aims of Hamas, which seeks not two states living side by side in peace and security, but one state ruled by an Islamic theocracy.

No one is talking about two states today, tomorrow, the day after the war ends in Gaza, or anytime soon. No one is talking about a Palestinian state while Hamas remains a viable threat and until all the hostages are returned. Neither Israel nor the Palestinians have leadership willing or able to move forward. Many Israelis and many Palestinians have nowhere near enough trust in one another for two states in the near future. As Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) said, “I am under no illusion that a two-state solution will happen in the immediate future but to assert that it should NEVER happen—that either Jews or Palestinians should never have self-determination—is morally wrong.”

You can find polls that support any outcome you favor depending on how the questions are phrased, but polling of Israelis and Palestinians when emotions are this high are unlikely to have a long shelf life. They are snapshots of a difficult time. You can find religious zealots on both sides who will accept nothing less than one state–for their side–from the river to the sea. But if you think Israel can’t work it out with Muslims, maybe you’ve never heard of the peace agreement with Egypt, the peace agreement with Jordan, or the Abraham Accords.

Any agreement on a two-state solution would, by definition, have to include arrangements to address Israel’s security concerns. At least at first, any Palestinian state would have to be de-militarized until sufficient trust between the two states developed.

We are talking about a two-state solution now because recent statements from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposing a two-state solution could jeopardize a major regional peace deal.

Saudi Arabia has proposed a plan that would integrate Israel into the region and stabilize Gaza but that requires progress toward a two-state solution. This would be huge for Israel. When the Abraham Accords were announced, some mocked then-Secretary of State John Kerry for predicting in 2016 that Israel will never have true peace with the Arab world absent a two-state solution, as if trade deals with four Gulf monarchies was “true peace.” 

Our right-wing friends found it inconvenient that the Israel-Palestinian conflict must be resolved and wished that normalization agreements with other Arab countries would make the problem magically go away. The real world said differently. Normalization and true peace is impossible without a two-state solution. This reality, in addition to the necessity of a two-state solution for Israel to remain Jewish and democratic, and in addition to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s attempts to placate the extreme wing of his coalition by opposing a two-state solution, is why President Biden and other Democratic friends of Israel, true friends of Israel, are renewing their calls for a two-state solution.

Every Democratic senator supports a two-state solution. On January 24, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) led 49 Democratic senators in announcing plans to file an amendment to the forthcoming national security supplemental package that reiterates longstanding U.S. policy in support of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The two Democrats who did not join Schatz also support a two-state solution but had other concerns.

On January 19, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) joined 17 Jewish Democratic House members in calling for a two-state solution. Jewish Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Kathy Manning (D-NC), and Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) were not among the 17 but issued a separate statement supporting a two-state solution, as did Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).

Separately, Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and Jim Hines (D-CT) and 42 other House Democrats expressed "support for a two-state solution as the only viable path for sustainable peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people. "

The Republican Party opposes a two-state solution. This is nothing new. Republicans dropped support for a two-state solution from their platform in 2016, breaking with decades of bipartisan consensus. Republicans nixed language supporting a two-state solution in the Israel 75th birthday resolution the House passed in April 2023.

Republicans are falsely accusing the Biden administration and Democrats of pressuring Israel to move forward toward two states right now to distract us from the truth: President Biden proposed an unprecedented $14.3 billion aid package to Israel on October 20 that has not passed because of Republican obstruction in the House and the Senate.

Hamas, Israel’s Likud Party, and our Republican Party vehemently oppose a two-state solution. Israelis who want Israel to remain Jewish and democratic and our Democratic Party support a two-state solution. The path forward lies in eradicating Hamas, removing the Likud Party from power, and preventing the Republican Party from regaining power.

A common but misplaced argument against pursuing a two-state solution is that the Palestinians are at fault and that the ball is in their court, not Israel’s, to pave the way for a two-state solution. But even if you can prove that history shows that Israel was always right and the Palestinians were always wrong, even if you can prove that settlements are legal and Israel is not an occupying power, even if you can prove that time and time again Israel offered peace on generous terms only to be rebuffed by the Palestinians, what are you proving? That Israel is entitled to keep the West Bank forever? That the Palestinians had their chance, blew it, and now Israel can write off Palestinian demands, continue to build settlements, and create a one-state reality?

No matter how we got to where we are, and no matter whose fault it is, the population of Jews and Arabs between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is roughly equal. Israel can only be Jewish and democratic if the vast majority of its citizens are Jewish. Palestinians who live in the West Bank do not have the same legal rights as Jews who live in the West Bank or as Jews and Palestinians who live in pre-1967 Israel. That’s understandable in the context of a temporary military occupation caused by Jordan’s attack on Israel.

But Israel cannot remain Jewish and democratic and in permanent control of the West Bank indefinitely; it can only have any two of the three, which means that the only way to realize the classic Zionist dream of a democratic Jewish state is to cede the West Bank. Zionists in America and Israel must remember, as former Prime Minister Ehud Barak has written, that the ultimate aim of Zionism and Zionists was "not to secure every inch of the Land of Israel: it was to redeem, reinvigorate, and rededicate themselves to the People of Israel."

If you accept the imperative of a two-state solution, then it no longer matters whether Israel’s claim to the West Bank is superior to the Arab claim or how we got to where we are, because a two-state solution necessarily means Israel relinquishing nearly all of the West Bank.

Settlements are an obstacle to peace because they make a two-state solution more difficult. Settlements are not the root cause of the conflict, but they impede a solution. Even if a two-state solution is not possible now because Israel has no partner for peace, the United States and other governments that support Israel oppose settlement expansion because it will eventually make a two-state solution impossible. 

Settlements are also a security risk. Numerous reports indicate that IDF units that could have been deployed near Gaza were instead in the West Bank, guarding settlements. 

Israel, not the Palestinians, controls the land that must eventually become two states. Israel cannot make peace on its own but peace will never happen if Israel continues to expand settlements and make peace politically more difficult. The burden is on Israel to find a solution not because this is Israel’s fault or because Israel has not done enough, or even more than enough relative to the Palestinians, but because Israel is the party that needs a two-state solution. Eventually, if settlement expansion continues, Palestinians will see that a two-state solution is impossible and demand legal equality within the one de facto state comprising Israel and the West Bank. What then?

Is this unfair? Yes. Why should Israel have to give up land to which Jews have had historic ties for thousands of years that Israel won in a defensive war? But no matter how they got there, the Palestinians who live in the West Bank aren’t going anywhere. Neither are the Jews who live in the major settlement blocs and behind the 1967 lines. The reality is that for Israel to remain Jewish and democratic, fair or unfair, Israel has to find a way to relinquish the West Bank.

Tamar Zanberg wrote that “Some people from the right would like to tell us that speaking out against settlements is anti-Israel. I want to say loud and clear that they are 100% wrong. Speaking out against the settlements is not only pro-Israel, but it is the act of true Zionists. Zionists who wants Israel to reflect their democratic values. Zionists who want Israel to reflect their Jewish values.”

Zanberg is essentially echoing David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and so many other Zionists who realized that regardless of Jewish religious and historic ties to the land, Israel cannot be true to its basic values and control the West Bank.

Acknowledging that settlements are an obstacle to peace does not mean that we are excusing Palestinian violence, intransigence, or incitement. It’s not either/or. Neither does acknowledgment that both Israel and the Palestinians must take steps toward peace imply moral equivalence. What it does mean is that stopping settlement expansion is a necessary albeit insufficient condition for a two-state solution, and since a two-state solution is an existential necessity for Israel, Israel cannot afford to wait for movement on the Palestinian side: The more settlements there are, the harder a two-state solution becomes, and that’s bad for Israel.

But doesn’t October 7 prove that a two-state solution will not work? Secretary of State John Kerry addressed this concern on June 3, 2013: “Some are wary because of Israel’s experience following the withdrawal of Gaza and Lebanon. You have no idea how many times I hear people say, ‘We withdrew from Lebanon, we withdrew from Gaza, and what did we get? We got rockets.’ Well, folks, it’s worth remembering these withdrawals were unilateral. They were not part of a negotiated peace treaty that included strong guarantees for Israel’s security, and they certainly weren’t part of a peace agreement that agrees to be a demilitarized state or entity.

“We know that peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, on the other hand, which were bilateral, yielded a much better result for Israel…We know that any peace agreement with the Palestinians will need to include extensive, mutually agreed security arrangements in order to ensure a Palestinian state that does not become the launching site for future attacks against Israel.”

Former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak agrees. Barak has faith in the Israel Defense Forces and is firmly convinced that Israel can cede the West Bank without putting Israel's security at undue risk. The point of the Zionist project was for Jews to take their future into their own hands; to say that if we will it we cannot achieve it shows an astonishing lack of faith in Zionism.

Neither side has to give up its narrative or accept the other side's narrative, but both sides must realize that the only path forward, a two-state solution, requires both sides to give up sovereignty over land that they believe should be theirs and both sides to accept that previous sins of the other side will never be fully redressed. 

Palestinians must realize that violence will not gain them their dignity. Contrary to what some Palestinians and Americans believe, Israeli Jews do not see themselves as colonialists from somewhere else but as a people returning to their homeland. They will not leave and will fight for their state.

Contrary to what some Israelis and Americans believe, Palestinians are a people, they have a history, and they too consider this their homeland. Their will cannot be crushed and they will fight for a state. 

A two-state solution, more than ever, remains the only solution.

Corrections. I'm entitled to my own opinions but not to my own facts, so I appreciate it when readers bring errors to my attention. No one brought any mistakes to my attention last week, so it looks like last week's newsletter was perfect.

In Case You Missed It:

  • Alan Gross: Qatar has “to step up and play a greater role in convincing their client, Hamas, to release those hostages … If we don’t speak out and demonstrate against this type of atrocious behavior, criminal behavior, it’s going to happen again and again … They want to be a player in our civilization, they’ve got to play in a civilized manner.”

  • H.Res.996, which condemns Hamas rape and sexual violence, now has more than 180 cosponsors. Please contact your representative if they have not yet cosponsored and ask why not.

  • The Biden administration has suspended funding for UNRWA pending review of allegations that UNRWA employees may have been involved in the October 7 Hamas terror attack.

  • The American Academy for Jewish Research supports Harvard’s appointment of Derek Penslar to co-chair its task force on antisemitism and rejects the “vicious and groundless charges” leveled against him.

  • David Myers: Right-wing critics of Penslar “often assert that criticism of Israeli governmental policy is not necessarily antisemitic. But either they don’t believe the claim they make or they deploy it strategically to advance their agenda of silencing those with whom they disagree.” And this from Dov Waxman.

  • The Nexus Task Force is working to distinguish criticism of Israel from antisemitism.

Tweets of the Week. U.S. Embassy London (this is real) and Johnny Marr.

Video Clip of the Week. When Henry Winkler sang Song Sung Blue with Neil Diamond.

Upcoming Event. Please Join Dana Gordon, Steve Sheffey, Jill Zipin, and

Democratic Jewish Outreach PA PAC for a Zoom fundraiser for Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, at 4:30 PM ET. RSVP here to get the Zoom link. This will be a close race and holding this seat is key to holding the Democratic Senate majority.

For those new to this newsletter. This is the newsletter even Republicans have to read and the original home of the viral and beloved 2022 and 2023 Top Ten Signs You're At a Republican Seder. If someone forwarded this to you, why not subscribe and get it in your inbox every Sunday? Just click here--it's free.

I periodically update my Medium posts on why Democrats are better than Republicans on Israel and antisemitism and on the IHRA definition of antisemitism. My definition of "pro-Israel" is here (it's a work in progress, as am I).

I hope you enjoyed today's newsletter. Donations are welcome (this takes time to write and costs money to send). If you'd like to chip in, click here and fill in the amount of your choice. If you see something that says "Save your info and create a PayPal account," click the button to the right and it will go away. You don't need a PayPal account. Or you can Venmo @Steven-Sheffey (last four phone digits are 9479). You can send a check too. But no crypto or gold bars.

The Fine Print: This newsletter usually drops on Sunday mornings. Unless stated otherwise, the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of any candidates or organizations I support or am associated with. I value intellectual honesty over intellectual consistency, and every sentence should be read as if it began with the words "This is what I think today is most likely to be correct and I'm willing to be proven wrong, but..." Read views opposed to mine and make up your own mind. A link to an article doesn't mean I agree with everything its author has ever said or even that I agree with everything in the article; it means that the article supports or elaborates on the point I was making. I read and encourage replies to my newsletters but I don't have time to acknowledge them or engage in one-on-one discussion. Rather than replying individually, to the extent replies raise issues not addressed in previous newsletters, I'll address them in subsequent newsletters to the extent relevant. I'm happy to read anything, but please don't expect me to watch videos or listen to podcasts of any length--send me a transcript if it's that important (it's not only you--it's the dozens of other people who want me to watch or listen to "just this one"). Don't expect a reply if your message is uncivil or if it's clear from your message that you only read the bullet points or failed to click on the relevant links. If you share an excerpt from this newsletter please share the link to the newsletter (near the top of the newsletter). My newsletter, my rules.

Dedicated to my daughters: Ariel Sheffey, Ayelet Sheffey, and Orli Sheffey z''l. Copyright 2024 Steve Sheffey. All rights reserved.

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