'Tis the season. The season when members of Congress are lobbied hard to support positions presented to them as the epitome of "pro-Israel" - but that in fact are anything but.
This year, the focus is the Palestinians and their efforts to seek recognition of a state of Palestine at the United Nations and to try to achieve national reconciliation.
Members of Congress who truly care about Israel need to look past the self-righteous narratives and the self-serving talking points and recognize that, far from helping Israel, coming out in support of such positions makes the achievement of peace and security for Israel less likely.
Why? Because peace for Israel requires Palestinian national unity. Congress should welcome unity efforts, not seek to undermine them. For years the U.S. government has made the mistake of opposing Palestinian reconciliation rather than encouraging it. It would be reckless and irresponsible for Congress to compound this mistake.
The Gaza-West Bank split is a very real hurdle to peace. Indeed, critics of past peace efforts were correct when they argued Israel can't make peace with half the Palestinians. Rather than responding to the Palestinians' national reconciliation effort with threats and new conditions, Congress should welcome the potential emergence of a Palestinian government that represents all Palestinians - one that will have security and governance capacity in both the West Bank and Gaza. Such a government is essential to the achievement and actual implementation of any peace agreement.
Yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization, but simply asserting that fact is not a policy. Five years of American sanctions against Hamas failed to significantly weaken or sideline the group. It is time to embrace another way forward. A unified Palestinian government will not only be more capable of making peace with Israel, but it will make Hamas genuinely answerable to its people - something that is more likely to lead to a change in behavior, or a loss of domestic credibility, than U.S. sanctions could ever do.
Likewise, the Palestinians' campaign of diplomacy is not the real threat today to Israel. The real threat to Israel is the void created by the absence of any credible peace effort - a void this campaign is seeking to fill. The real danger for Israel is what else may fill this void - like the demonstrations and subsequent violence witnessed only days ago in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, and on Israel's borders with Lebanon and Syria.
Rather than demanding that the Palestinians desist from their diplomatic efforts, Congress should be demanding that President Obama show real leadership by getting serious about Middle East peace.
Such leadership, not Congressional threats and bluster, is the only thing that can induce the Palestinians to suspend their recognition campaign - something the Palestinian leadership has made clear it would welcome.
Without such leadership, the Palestinian people will continue to ask why the Arab Spring, with its promise of freedom and democracy, doesn't apply to them - and recent demonstrations offer ample evidence that many are no longer willing to sit quietly and wait. And without such leadership, Palestinian leaders will continue to believe they can no longer wait for U.S.-led peace efforts to deliver Palestinian dignity and self-determination. After two decades of disappointments, their apparent conclusion, which should surprise nobody, is that unless and until the U.S. is ready to get serious, they must pursue their own course, irrespective of what the White House, or Congress, thinks.
America has a stake in all of this. With the Middle East in flux and the stakes higher than ever, there is growing sympathy in the international community for the Palestinians' efforts to break out of the current peace process paradigm. Even America's closest allies are increasingly ready to pursue their own independent foreign policies in this arena.
Absent a reinvigorated peace effort, international readiness to engage a unified Palestinian government and support recognition of Palestine will only gain momentum. Congressional grandstanding will not stop this trend. Rather, it will only exacerbate growing U.S. and Israeli isolation and further undermine the chances of achieving peace and security for Israel.
In this season of "pro-Israel" point-scoring, members of Congress need to remember that the most pro-Israel Congress is not the one whose members try to outflank each other with dogmatically hawkish positions with respect to the Palestinians or the Arab world. Rather, it is one whose members understand that Israeli-Arab peace is essential to Israel's security, well-being and viability as a Jewish state and a democracy. It is a Congress whose members recognize and embrace this fact: sustained, credible U.S. efforts to achieve Israeli-Arab peace are an essential element of U.S. support for Israel.
Lara Friedman is the Director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace Now.