As an advocate for Israel’s safety and well being, I’m grateful that politicians across the ideological spectrum demonstrate a deep commitment to the security of the Jewish homeland. I’m grateful as well that, over time, many of those same politicians have come to recognize that Israel’s security depends on achieving a two-state resolution to its long-running conflict with the Palestinian people.
Mr. Romney’s trip to Israel provides an excellent opportunity for him to express clearly and unequivocally for the first time that he too supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In doing so, he would demonstrate that he stands with the vast majority of Americans and Israelis, as well as well as with every recent American and Israeli government.
Lately, American politics has seen the rise of a “One-State Caucus,” a small but noisy group of politicians calling for Israel to unilaterally annex the West Bank, give the Palestinians a reduced set of minority “rights,” and erase the 1949 armistice line permanently.
These politicians mouth the ideology of a small segment of right-wing American Jews and Christian Zionists, funded by several prominent billionaires and millionaires. These campaign funders do not represent broader American Jewish opinion, but they do exercise a disproportionate influence on the shape of America’s political discourse around Israel and the Middle East.
It’s worth noting that the “One State Caucus” and the billionaires who invest in them don’t stand with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has stated his commitment to a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or with his most recent predecessors.
The Caucus also stands in stark opposition to long-standing bipartisan American policy. Successive American administrations have for decades sought a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a land-for-peace formula.
Numerous international documents over the last twenty years provide a clear template of what a final two-state resolution would look like: A Palestinian state in the occupied territories based on the pre-1967 lines, with agreed land swaps, a negotiated resolution of the refugee issue, and a shared Jerusalem as the capital of both states.
This outline has been clear and accepted. The only thing lacking has been the political will to bring these ideas to fruition.
The One-State Caucus and their backers want Americans to believe that permanently denying the rights of the Palestinian people will somehow make Israel safer. They hold that turning Israel into a nation in which only some have political rights will not destroy its democracy.
Such ideas are, at best, fanciful. At worst, they recklessly threaten Israel’s future, and the lives of Israelis and Palestinians affected by the ongoing conflict.
In pursuit of illusory political gain, the Caucus and its funders are shattering the broad bipartisan consensus and turning Israel into a political football. We saw that during the Republican presidential primary when, for instance, Newt Gingrich began insisting that the Palestinian people are “invented” despite having previously called them “among the most international and most advanced people in the Arab world.”
Now Sheldon Adelson’s millions are flowing to Mitt Romney and other American funders of the Israeli settlement enterprise are directing their resources to constructing a Romney presidency.
This trip provides an excellent opportunity for Governor Romney to establish that these funders won’t affect his views on this important issue that has long been a cornerstone of American foreign policy.
There are many ways to be pro-Israel. The pro-Israel tent is large and the consensus within it wide. And nearly all those in the tent recognize that Israel’s future as a democracy and homeland of the Jewish people depends on a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mitt Romney should use the platform he’ll have this weekend to establish clearly that he chooses to stand with the vast majority of American and Israeli Jews inside the pro-Israel tent supporting a two-state solution – rather than to huddle outside it with the tiny but well-heeled One-State Caucus.
Israel’s future – and America’s interest in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – is far too important to let the temptation of campaign dollars blind him to the type of friendship and support the Jewish homeland truly needs.
Ben-Ami is the president and founder of J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby.