On Friday, John Kerry suggested in a speech to the Trilateral Commission that Israel risks becoming an “apartheid state,” a comment that sparked an immediate backlash. The disgusting claim that Israel practices apartheid is a staple on the left and should be repudiated by everyone. But the more important point, I think, is that while Kerry’s statement was badly phrased–he has sort-of-apologized for using what Paul calls the “A” word–he was expressing the consensus among politicians in the United States, and also–until, perhaps, recently–the consensus in Israel, to the effect that Israel’s only viable future lies with a two-state solution. This is what Kerry reportedly said:
[Kerry] lamented the breakdown of talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens — or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state,” Kerry says in the recording.
Kerry here was articulating the cornerstone of American policy toward Israel and the Palestinians for decades–that peace can be achieved only by creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Kerry expressed only the conventional wisdom when he said that absent the formation of two states, Israel faces a dilemma: either it permanently takes over the West Bank but allows the Palestinians only second-class status–i.e., “apartheid”–or it accords them full equality, including voting rights, in which case Palestinian numbers will overwhelm Israel’s Jewish population and thereby “destroy the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.”
But that consensus has been challenged forcibly by Caroline Glick in her new book, The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, in which she argues that Israel can incorporate Judea and Samaria–the heart of Biblical Israel–into Israel proper, accord full civil rights to the Palestinians, and still retain a substantial Jewish majority. The key to her argument is demographic: the Palestinian population of the West Bank has been grossly exaggerated for political reasons. At the same time, the birth rate among Palestinians has collapsed.
So, she says, if one looks at the population numbers properly, annexing the West Bank and giving the Palestinians full civil equality, including voting rights, is a viable path forward for Israel. In other words, Israel need not be held hostage forever by a corrupt Palestinian leadership that pretends to engage in a transparently futile “peace process” while plotting Israel’s destruction.
In my view, what was mostly wrong with Kerry’s statement was not his use of the “A-word,” which, as he noted in his own defense, has been used by a number of Israeli politicians in the same context:
“While Justice Minister Livni, former Prime Ministers [Ehud] Barak and [Ehud] Ohlmert have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future,” Kerry concluded, “it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.”
Rather, the the biggest problem with Kerry’s comments is that they reflect an outmoded consensus to the effect that a unitary state cannot be viable. On the contrary, a single, unified Israel that includes Judea and Samaria is, in my view, not only a possible solution but the only realistic solution for what is otherwise an intractable problem.