Palestinians are constantly accused of being the real obstacle to peace in the Middle East but a new initiative by a group of America's most influential Jews may just prove otherwise this week.
For decades, various Western politicians have talked about a two-state solution. It has been on just about everyone's lips outside of Israel but has never really been taken seriously within the Zionist state itself. Now, suddenly, it seems that Tel Aviv wants to embrace "two-states" and has sent instructions to its embassies, friends on university campuses and those inside other institutions far and wide to promote the notion that Israel wants to talk two-state peace.
Yiftah Curiel, the head of media operations at London's Israeli Embassy, for instance, was despatched to Oxford last week to opine about the values and reality of a two-state solution during the prestigious university's Union Debate on its viability. Chutzpah is a wonderfully expressive Yiddish word derived from the Hebrew "ḥutspâ"; I don't believe that there is anything like it in the English language that can completely convey the audacity of the Israeli government. In this case, therefore, we will have to stick with chutzpah, for that is what best describes Curiel's performance.
The acerbic Israeli columnist and journalist Gideon Levy, who followed the debate closely, observed wryly: "Do you get it? Israel claims it supports two states – perhaps because it has realised that a two-state solution is no longer viable." What, he asked, has prevented Israel from implementing this solution over the past 50 or so years of occupation? "And how does the official representative of the state – which has never ceased building more and more settlements, the entire purpose of which is to thwart the two-state solution – dare say that Israel is in favour of dividing the land?"
Writing in Haaretz, Levy admitted: "But Israeli chutzpah knows no bounds, and neither does the temerity of its propagandists."
So what is behind this new enthusiasm of the Israeli government for a two-state solution? The answer, perhaps, lies thousands of miles away in America, where two separate working documents are about to be published in a bid to prepare the ground for a two-state solution that will satisfy Palestinian ambitions and Israel's security demands.
The proposals will include RELOCATING settlers; FREEZING illegal settlements; SOVEREIGNTY for Palestinians; RADICAL departures from Israel's right-wing government policies; and PREPARING the next US president to insist on peace talks.
News of the audacious plans must have hit Benjamin Netanyahu hard, because he has made it quite clear to the Obama administration — as well as other interested parties, such as the United Nations, the British and the French — that he will not tolerate outside interference. While repelling Washington's advances has been relatively easy to-date, even Netanyahu appears to have woken up to the fact that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton are likely to tolerate the same abrasive treatment. Both potential presidential nominees have made it quite clear that they have ambitions to bring peace to the region by ending the Palestine-Israel conflict, even though Netanyahu and his predecessors have, with the greatest of ease, managed to lead most US presidents into the long grass during their terms of office.
The latest twist in all of this is different, though. What will have shaken the Israeli prime minister is that this latest initiative is being driven by several independent and influential organisations which have always made sure that they are on the same page as Tel Aviv — until now. In a rare move, it seems that the hugely influential Israel Policy Forum has seized control of the Zionist project, leaving Netanyahu isolated or having to play catch up. After Curiel's rhetoric at the Oxford Union last Thursday, it looks as if Tel Aviv has been panicked into the latter.
The IPF, said to be alarmed at the development and unpredictability of Netanyahu's right wing government, is now working alongside a number of equally anxious retired Israeli military and security officials as well as a Washington think tank. IPF funder Alan Solow, Commanders for Israel Security and the Centre for a New American Security, a foreign policy think tank backed by many political heavyweights including former Senator Joe Lieberman, will unveil their two-state plans this week.
While the right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC — arguably the main pro-Israel Lobby group in the US) also promotes the idea of peace talks it would never push any initiatives without a green light from Tel Aviv. Nor would it publish plans showing what two states would look like without consulting Israel first, but that is exactly what these other US groups will do in a few days' time.
"The debate over Israel's future is not taking place in Israel," commented Gideon Levy after the Oxford event. "It is taking place everywhere but Israel. Israel is not dealing with its future – it is dealing with its present and, mainly, its past. People don't talk about the future here."
This new initiative in Washington, once considered by many to be under political occupation by Israel while the Palestinians suffer under its military occupation, may change Tel Aviv's narcissism. However, if Israelis and their right-wing Prime Minister Netanyahu revert to their default position, then the Zionist state will be exposed as being the real obstacle to peace, which is something that the Palestinians and their supporters have known all along. It will take more than the usual Zionist chutzpah to get out of that particular hole.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.