The headline in the Arab news website Al-Quds (15 million followers) on Thursday screamed: “Biden and Lapid: We support the two-state solution and peace in the region.” It was their takeaway from the Biden visit, and it was an astute observation.
This was the breakthrough the Arabs have been waiting for since Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar Ilan speech on June 14, 2009, when he expressed his willingness to accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel, conditioned on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; a solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees outside Israel; demilitarization of the future Palestinian state; defensible borders for Israel; and Jerusalem remaining the united capital of Israel.
On July 14, 2022, another Israeli Prime Minister took the ball further in the direction of the goalposts. Yair Lapid said, in response to a journalist’s question at a press conference in Jerusalem with President Biden: “I have not changed my mind on the issue of the two states. The two-state solution is a guarantee for a democratic state with a Jewish majority.”
President Biden was only too happy to support Lapid’s willingness to push a two-state solution forward. Biden called for a “lasting negotiated peace between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people,” and insisted that Israel “must remain an independent, democratic Jewish state,” and “the best way to achieve that remains a two-state solution.”
Of course, Lapid stressed that “we will never yield an inch of our security. We are obligated to be cautious at every step. But to any country, any nation that wants peace and normalization with us, we say: Ahalan wasahalan, shalom, welcome.”
It was a strange choice of words, combining inches and security. Is security measured by distance? Mind you, Lapid did not say square inches of security, which would have brought to mind territories – occupied or liberated, take your pick. He used distance to measure security, suggesting that there’s a sweet spot with just the right amount of distance to satisfy Israel’s security needs and still enable a peace deal with the PA Arabs.
The reason I’m nitpicking Lapid’s speech is that the man’s former career was as a columnist for the country’s biggest newspaper. He is a man of words, and he didn’t include that strange pairing of inches and security without a purpose.
Al Quds was delighted with both men’s statements. They especially loved it when Biden said: “We want to reach a sustainable peace between Israel and the Palestinians… Israel must remain a democratic Jewish state, and the best for that is the two-state solution for two peoples.”
Biden said: We want to reach a sustainable peace between Israel and the Palestinians… Israel must remain a democratic Jewish state, and the best for that is the two-state solution for two peoples.
To be fair, the two-state solution was not the central topic in Thursday’s press conference. Biden and Lapid were far more concerned with Iran’s nuclear threat, and with the American president’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, which would be, as Biden put it, the first time a US President flies directly from Tel Aviv to Saudi Arabia. Biden will have to save the world’s economy on this visit, and the Saudis will be a tough crowd.
But I fear the two-state solution came back to life on Thursday, 13 years almost to the day after Netanyahu had given it its most recent endorsement by an Israeli PM.
On the other hand, I heard someone on an Israeli radio news show saying that Biden is spending two days with the Israelis, two days with the Saudis, and 45 minutes with the Palestinians.