Press reports are touting the success of today’s meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Joe Biden. President Biden has demonstrated his “pro-Israel bona fides”. Bennett has shown that he can sit at the grownups table. That’s all well and good, but did they address the one issue that will determine Israel’s future?
While a good meeting between the leaders of Israel and the United States is welcome and constructive, if the two leaders did not seriously address the issue of the occupation and Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, then they are not living up to their leadership responsibilities.
In the short run, sidestepping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may serve the political needs of both Bennett and Biden. But it is harmful for Israelis and Palestinians, as well as for America’s national security.
We at APN welcome the improvement in the US-Israeli bilateral relations and the understandings between the two leaders on a variety of strategic issues. But these ought not to come at the expense of progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel’s chief strategic challenge.
We understand why both Bennett and Biden seek stability, but the status quo between Israelis and Palestinians is not stable and we will not pretend that it is. The status quo is a recipe for protracted conflict, mutual suffering, and future disaster. We don’t know what understandings the two leaders reached privately regarding Israeli-Palestinian relations, but if these understandings are not harnessed to an agenda of future Israeli-Palestinian peace – the Biden administration’s official agenda – there is cause for serious concern. The Biden administration is committed to a goal of keeping the path open for a two-state solution. Serving that goal calls for active diplomacy rather than benign neglect, which caters to a traditional Israeli government practice of normalizing endless occupation and advances its goal of a Greater Israel at the expense of an independent Palestinian state.