JERUSALEM – An influential American commentator has sent shock waves through the Jewish establishment and Washington policy-making circles by breaking a long-standing taboo: He has endorsed the idea of a democratic entity of Jews and Palestinians living with equal rights between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, arguing that a two-state solution — Israel and Palestine — is no longer possible.
In making his case, Peter Beinart challenged a core tenet of Western foreign policy and of discourse among many Jews around the world of needing to ensure the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
Beinart took aim at decades of failed efforts by U.S. and European diplomats, as well as Israeli leaders who he believes have undermined the idea that establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel is the best way to peace.
“There’s a category of people in the U.S., Jewish and non-Jewish, who had been like me committed to the two-state solution for a long time and have been quietly losing faith in it but didn’t necessarily see an alternative,” Beinart said in an interview, after publishing a July 8 op-ed in The New York Times and a longer piece in the magazine Jewish Currents, where he is an editor at large.
The logic behind the two-state solution is straightforward. If Israel continues to control millions of Palestinians who do not have the right to vote, Israel will have to make a difficult choice: maintain the status quo and stop being a democracy, or grant the Palestinians the right to vote and lose its Jewish majority. An independent Palestinian state is widely seen as meeting both sides’ aspirations.
Beinart said that after decades of Israeli settlement expansion on occupied lands claimed by the Palestinians and proposals such as U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan that steadily offered the Palestinians less and less territory, setting up a viable Palestinian state is impossible.
The result, he said, is a de facto binational state where Israelis have basic rights while millions of Palestinians do not.
“The painful truth is that the project to which liberal Zionists like myself have devoted ourselves for decades — a state for Palestinians separated from a state for Jews — has failed,” he wrote. “It is time for liberal Zionists to abandon the goal of Jewish-Palestinian separation and embrace the goal of Jewish-Palestinian equality.”