Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Senator Warren's Table

I’ve supported a two-state solution for 30 years.  I believe that it would have been better if many of the “settlements,” i.e. communities of Jews, had not been built in the territories.  The country would have been better off had the resources and the people been devoted to settling more Jews in the Galilee and the Negev, and to developing additional infrastructure for all of the residents of those regions. 

I have supported candidates for Prime Minister from parties that would have slowed down or stopped altogether the building of settlements beyond blocs that would be included in Israel in any final settlement.  I would accept the removal of some “hilltop” settlements out in the middle of nowhere and consisting of a few trailers if it would deliver true peace, the acceptance of the right of Jews to our nation in the Middle East, an end of claims, and no “right of return” of descendants of refugees, people who never lived in Israel. 

Israel needs strong supporters in, and strong support from, both parties.  Both parties will control Congress at one time or another.  Both parties will have a member in the White House at one time or another.  I want the Democrats to have a pro-Israel candidate.

Elizabeth Warren is not that candidate.   When asked if she would withhold aid if Israel engaged in settlement activity she finds adverse to a solution, she declared that “everything is on the table.”
Why, if I find the settlements problematic, would I not vote for someone who uses funds as leverage for curbing some settlement activity? 

Because it shows that Senator Warren is no friend of Israel, has no respect for Israel, has little if any understanding of the reasons for a lack of a peace agreement, and most likely will have an adversarial relationship with whoever is the Prime Minister of Israel. 

Israel is a democracy.  Its government reflects the will of its people, albeit, like any other democracy, in a rough and sometimes convoluted manner.  Israelis live in a rough neighborhood.  They have experienced wars, terrorism, and a country that threatens their annihilation while developing nuclear weapons. 

Israelis have elected governments that have adopted Israel’s policies regarding settlements.  Israelis, having endured terror during the Oslo Process and the Second Intifada, will undoubtedly elect a government that adopts policies Senator Warren finds objectionable and not conducive to advancing peace. We now know how a President Warren might respond when she and the Israeli people disagree.

President Warren would consider withholding vital funds necessary to Israel’s defense because she has a policy disagreement with the Israeli people.  She would substitute her judgment for the Israeli people’s when it comes to their and their children’s safety, and might use funds to enforce that judgment. 

That’s no friend.  That’s not showing respect.  That’s ill-informed. That’s adversarial. 

The settlements are an irritant.  They make separation of the two peoples more difficult.  But they are not the reason there has been no settlement of the conflict.  They are one more excuse for the Palestinians not engaging in serious negotiations and not being willing to compromise.  But they are not an “obstacle to peace.” 

There were no settlements when the Peel Commission recommended a two-state solution in 1937.  There were no settlements when the United Nations adopted a two-state solution in 1947.  There were no settlements when Israel offered to return the territories won in a defensive war in 1967, and when the Arab League responded with the “Three No’s” at Khartoum:  No negotiations, no recognition, no peace. 

There were considerably fewer Israelis living in settlements when Israel and Egypt agreed to the Camp David Accords in 1979.  There would have been few settlements remaining had the Palestinians accepted the Barack/Clinton Camp David proposal of 2000, or the Taba proposal of 2001, or the Olmert proposal of 2008. 

Under pressure from the Obama Administration, Israel suspended settlement building for 10 months in 2010-11 in order to encourage Palestinian President Abbas to come to the negotiating table.   The response:  Abbas waited until the last month to show up; nothing was accomplished.

Clearly, settlements are not the reason there is no resolution.  The Palestinians had many opportunities to say “yes” to a resolution sans settlements.

Then there is this question:  If there is a democratic, peaceful, pluralistic Palestinian nation living beside Israel, why can’t Jews live freely in it just as 1.8 million Palestinians live as free citizens in Israel?  (Unfortunately, there is scant evidence to support the notion that a Palestinian nation would be democratic, peaceful, or pluralistic, and there is virtually no evidence that Jews would be allowed to live as full and equal citizens of such a country.) 

You don’t have to be a fan of Prime Minister Netanyahu to acknowledge that he has a point when he contends that those who want the settlements uprooted as a condition of a settlement are advocating ethnic cleansing.  Is agreeing as part of a resolution of the conflict to clear an ethnic or national group from a territory any less of an exercise in ethnic cleansing than when done in war? 

True, it would not mean death and injury, but it would mean removal and destruction.  In fact, it seems like it would be a better organized, perhaps slightly less messy, version of the current 120-hour truce that Presidents Erdogan, Trump, and Putin cooked up to allow the Kurds to “evacuate,” i.e. be ethnically cleansed from, territory they had settled. 

Finally, any student of the history of the conflict and of the efforts at a settlement knows that Israelis, who are exceedingly cautious because they have no margin of error and because they have been chastened, if not traumatized, by terror and war, will make concessions when they feel that the U.S. has their back, not when the American President pressures and threatens, particularly when it comes to arms vital to maintain their defense.  Moreover, we know that the Palestinians will not make concessions when they are coddled and excused and when they feel that they can rely on the U.S. and the world to pressure and ostracize Israel. 

Clearly, settlements are not the reason for the failure of the Palestinians and Israelis to resolve their dispute. And we know that pressuring Israel is not the way to get concessions from either side. For Senator Warren to think the settlements are the problem, and to think pressuring Israel by threatening to withhold  funds for vital military needs, shows ignorance, or disrespect, and/or an adversarial attitude toward the Israeli people and their democratic choices. 

Unfortunately, the Senator has demonstrated that she is not the informed, thoughtful pro-Israel Democratic candidate many are looking for, nor is she likely to be able to move the parties toward a resolution of the conflict. 

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)


  1. ��interesting and well written. What happens if she gets the nod?

  2. thank you.
    This is great. It could apply equally to Pete Buttigieg. I have forwarded it to his campaign.

  3. Thoughtful, Alan. Interesting moment if Bibi is not going to be PM much longer.

  4. I would remove the hilltop settlements especially the illegal ones. They should go immediately.

  5. Warren is a Trump asset.

  6. Wow! Alan. Well said. Great summary.

  7. Couldn't agree with you more

  8. Well said! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Excellent article.
    However, the dilemma for the Democratic Party is that Warren may be the banner carrier.
    Were that the case, our choices are little and none.
    Do we vote out a crazy man who has up to this point made decisions favorable to Israel or vote for a more rational candidate who from the get go may be antagonistic to Israel?
    Its a proverbial "Rock and a Hard Place".

  10. Thank you Alan. Your lessons on the history are always important to me, and thank you for shining a bright light on what Candidate Warren would not be.

  11. Well said, we’re definitely worried that there does not seem to be even 1 democratic candidate that is educated or thoughtfully informed on Israel.
    I think we have to gear ourselves up for a major turnaround in U.S. relations. How scary is that when our parents raised us to support the Democrats at any cost?
    Let’s pray for a year of peace.

  12. Great piece but I think you missed a bigger point with Elizabeth Warren.

    Her selection of Max Berger, one of the founders of If Not Now who once tweeted, "I'd totally be friends with Hamas," exposed her position on Israel awhile ago. She has embraced If Not Now while both Biden and Booker have rebuked them.

  13. Excellent ..once again..

  14. . I have come to see “settlements” as a function of the dialogue. Each rocket from Gaza created a new settlement. There is some hope in that—in dialogue of any form—for they can with intervention, progress to other forms of dialogue. Advocating for fewer settlements is not a problem as long as the rockets are stopped too. Complaints about previous deals often are based on giving without receiving, an insult to all previous dialogue. That one sided “compromise” does no credit to a lasting peace. To link to “ethnic cleansing” is to distract from the dialogue that has so much potential.

  15. Alan-- well done and well written. However, one thing all of us in the pro-Israel camp have to consider when objecting to Warren's statement: no country has a claim on US support beyond what the US will see as its own interests. So the point is not that 'how dare Warren talk about cutting aid if Israel doesn't do what we want' but rather 'Israel deserves American support *regardless* of progress on the peace process, as long as the Palestinians continue their rejection of the Jewish state." It's a position we can safely stand on, because the Palestinians aren't retreating from their maximalist position anytime in the foreseeable future!

  16. Excellent column. I essentially agree with you about Warren. Still, as an American citizen who strongly supports Israel I have to weigh my two responsibilities--(1) supporting candidates with whom I agree on the full range of domestic and international policies and ability to win in 2020 (defeating Trump) vs (2) my support for Israel.

    I would have to say that this is a close call in Warren's case. Maybe not so close in the case of other Democratic presidential candidates (with the exception of Bernie Sanders), judging from candidates' statements provided by the Democratic Majority for Israel, a group within the Democratic Party.

    Only Joe Biden's statement mentioned West Bank settlements, although without linking them to US financial support for Israel. As widely known, Bernie Sanders is the least supportive of Israel.