Photo Credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO.
From left: U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi gather in Tel Aviv to discuss the war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Oct. 18, 2023

On February 7, Secretary of State Blinken gave prepared remarks in Israel and called for “a concrete, time-bound and irreversible path” to a Palestinian state.

The danger to Israel implicit in these remarks is very great.

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Even if one assumes that creating a Palestinian state is an important goal, what Blinken has done here is to destroy any preconditions. Blinken of course said that new state should live side by side with Israel in peace, but he did not make that a condition of its creation. When the United States proposed a pathway to Palestinian statehood twenty years ago in the Bush administration, it was via the “Roadmap.” Its formal name tells the story: “A Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”

It seems “Performance-based” is now gone. If the path forward is “time-bound and irreversible,” there are by definition no conditions that would slow or preclude creating that state. Not Iranian influence, not Hamas control, not support for terrorism, not teaching hatred of Jews, not importing weapons, not building tunnels into Israel, not brutal repression of Palestinian voices that criticize those in power. Nothing.

Is this now truly the position of the United States? Have we learned nothing in the last twenty years, watching the Palestinian Authority degenerate into a corrupt and ineffective autocracy that Palestinians loathe, while Iranian support helped Hamas turn Gaza into a murderous headquarters for anti-Israel violence?

George W. Bush once spoke of the soft bigotry of low expectations, and that is part of what we see here. A “time bound and irreversible path” to Palestinian statehood demands nothing of Palestinians. They are not asked to confront hatred of Jews, not asked to end terrorism, not asked to create decent and effective governance. Instead of being asked to reform their institutions and confront the murderers in their midst, they are asked for nothing. And if that is what they are asked for, that is what they will deliver.

This U.S. position would be understandable in many ways were it entirely cynical. That is, if the idea is that a commitment to a “time bound and irreversible path” is what the Saudis need to move forward toward normalization while we and they know creation of a Palestinian state will never happen or will take decades, that would be cynical but realistic. The deeper problem with the U.S. position today is that it appears to be idealistic: Blinken actually means what he says and does want a “time-bound and irreversible path” that will create a Palestinian state no matter how great a danger to Israel it presents. If so, he is promoting a policy that does Palestinians no favors and endangers Israelis. Let’s hope realists (or cynics) in the U.S. government, and Israelis of all political leanings, explain to Blinken why his demand is unacceptable.

 

{Reposted from Pressure Points}

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Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor under Pres. George W. Bush.