So if there is only one state, you would have millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights, separate legal, education, and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives them of the most basic freedoms. Separate and unequal is what you would have. And nobody can explain how that works. Would an Israeli accept living that way? Would an American accept living that way? Will the world accept it?
If the occupation becomes permanent, over the time the Palestinian Authority could simply dissolve, turn over all the administrative and security responsibilities to the Israelis. What would happen then? Who would administer the schools and hospitals and on what basis? Does Israel want to pay for the billions of dollars of lost international assistance that the Palestinian Authority now receives? Would the Israel Defense Force police the streets of every single Palestinian city and town?
How would Israel respond to a growing civil rights movement from Palestinians, demanding a right to vote, or widespread protests and unrest across the West Bank? How does Israel reconcile a permanent occupation with its democratic ideals? How does the U.S. continue to defend that and still live up to our own democratic ideals?
Nobody has ever provided good answers to those questions because there aren’t any. And there would be an increasing risk of more intense violence between Palestinians and settlers, and complete despair among Palestinians that would create very fertile ground for extremists.
With all the external threats that Israel faces today, which we are very cognizant of and working with them to deal with, does it really want an intensifying conflict in the West Bank? How does that help Israel’s security? How does that help the region?
The answer is it doesn’t, which is precisely why so many senior Israeli military and intelligence leaders, past and present, believe the two-state solution is the only real answer for Israel’s long term security.
Now, one thing we do know: if Israel goes down the one state path, it will never have true peace with the rest of the Arab world, and I can say that with certainty. The Arab countries have made clear that they will not make peace with Israel without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That’s not where their loyalties lie. That’s not where their politics are.
But there is something new here. Common interests in countering Iran’s destabilizing activities, and fighting extremists, as well as diversifying their economies have created real possibilities for something different is Israel takes advantage of the opportunities for peace. I have spent a great deal of time with key Arab leaders exploring this, and there is no doubt that they are prepared to have a fundamentally different relationship with Israel. That was stated in the Arab Peace Initiative, years ago. And in all my recent conversations, Arab leaders have confirmed their readiness, in the context of Israeli-Palestinian peace, not just to normalize relations but to work openly on securing that peace with significant regional security cooperation. It’s waiting. It’s right there.
Many have shown a willingness to support serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and to take steps on the path to normalization to relations, including public meetings, providing there is a meaningful progress towards a two-state solution. My friends, that is a real opportunity that we should not allow to be missed.
And that raises one final question: Is ours the generation that gives up on the dream of a Jewish democratic state of Israel living in peace and security with its neighbors? Because that is really what is at stake.
Now, that is what informed our vote at the Security Council last week – the need to preserve the two-state solution – and both sides in this conflict must take responsibility to do that. We have repeatedly and emphatically stressed to the Palestinians that all incitement to violence must stop. We have consistently condemned all violence and terrorism, and we have strongly opposed unilateral efforts to delegitimize Israel in international fora.
We’ve made countless public and private exhortations to the Israelis to stop the march of settlements. In literally hundreds of conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I have made clear that continued settlement activity would only increase pressure for an international response. We have all known for some time that the Palestinians were intent on moving forward in the UN with a settlements resolution, and I advised the prime minister repeatedly that further settlement activity only invited UN action.
Yet the settlement activity just increased, including advancing the unprecedented legislation to legalize settler outposts that the prime minister himself reportedly warned could expose Israel to action at the Security Council and even international prosecution before deciding to support it.
In the end, we could not in good conscience protect the most extreme elements of the settler movement as it tries to destroy the two-state solution. We could not in good conscience turn a blind eye to Palestinian actions that fan hatred and violence. It is not in U.S. interest to help anyone on either side create a unitary state. And we may not be able to stop them, but we cannot be expected to defend them. And it is certainly not the role of any country to vote against its own policies.
That is why we decided not to block the UN resolution that makes clear both sides have to take steps to save the two-state solution while there is still time. And we did not take this decision lightly. The Obama Administration has always defended Israel against any effort at the UN and any international fora or biased and one-sided resolutions that seek to undermine its legitimacy or security, and that has not changed. It didn’t change with this vote.
But remember it’s important to note that every United States administration, Republican and Democratic, has opposed settlements as contrary to the prospects for peace, and action at the UN Security Council is far from unprecedented. In fact, previous administrations of both political parties have allowed resolutions that were critical of Israel to pass, including on settlements. On dozens of occasions under George W. Bush alone, the council passed six resolutions that Israel opposed, including one that endorsed a plan calling for a complete freeze on settlements, including natural growth.
Let me read you the lead paragraph from a New York Times story dated December 23rd. I quote: “With the United States abstaining, the Security Council adopted a resolution today strongly deploring Israel’s handling of the disturbances in the occupied territories, which the resolution defined as, including Jerusalem. All of the 14 other Security Council members voted in favor.” My friends, that story was not written last week. It was written December 23rd, 1987, 26 years to the day that we voted last week, when Ronald Reagan was president.
Yet despite growing pressure, the Obama Administration held a strong line against UN action, any UN action, we were the only administration since 1967 that had not allowed any resolution to pass that Israel opposed. In fact, the only time in eight years the Obama Administration exercised its veto at the United Nations was against a one-sided settlements resolution in 2011. And that resolution did not mention incitement or violence.