With peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in deep freeze, what can supporters of a two-state solution do in the months ahead? I suggest our most important imperative is to step up and sharpen our opposition to Israel's ceaseless settlement expansion -- a task that is crucial to preserving Israel's long-term future as a democracy and our Jewish homeland.
The Israeli government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu has a dismal record on settlements. Last year, according to official figures from the Israeli Bureau of Statistics, settlement construction exploded by 123 percent over 2012 -- and that at a time when peace negotiations were ongoing.
Opposing settlements does not in any way contradict support for Israel's right to self-defense. The contrary is the case. Likewise, we must all realize that peace depends also on Palestinian actions and cannot be determined, realized or imposed by one party alone. But while peace talks are frozen, settlement expansion marches on, threatening Israel's security and international standing and the rights and aspirations of Palestinians, and giving new fuel to the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. Hence the importance of emphasizing this issue at this time.
What are some realistic actions points for the next few months?
First, would be to press the Obama administration and Congress to take a tougher stand against Israeli settlements and to undertake a thorough review of actions that could be taken to clarify the consequences for Israel if this expansion continues. The aim would be to persuade Israel that America's longstanding opposition goes beyond mere words and is real.
One step that groups like J Street are already pushing is that the United States should return to defining West Bank settlements as "illegal," as was the position of the US government before the 1980s and as is the view of the United Nations and most other countries including all of the European Union.
Second, American Jewish communal institutions should be challenged to speak out strongly and clearly about the danger that settlement expansion poses to Israel's future and its place in the international community.
Among the steps communal institutions could take are using maps of Israel that show the Green Line and providing transparent accounting of funds that pass through their accounts to the settlements.
Third, pro-peace advocates should step up efforts to make the case to Israel and Israelis that establishing an internationally-accepted border through negotiations must be a top national priority. If Israel could be brought to finally accept the principle of two states for two peoples established on the basis of the pre-1967 lines with equivalent swaps -- something the Netanyahu government refused to do in nine months of negotiations sponsored by Secretary of State Kerry but which is favored by chief peace negotiator Tzipi Livni -- that would send a powerful signal to the Palestinians and the world that Israel was serious.
As Livni said in a recent interview, "I want to keep Israel Zionist, Jewish, democratic. In order to do that, we need an agreement with the Palestinians. I want Israel to have borders. For that, I need a map. I need a map on which our borders are specified."
The pro-peace camp should do these things out of love for Israel and our deepening fear that the Netanyahu government is pursuing policies that endanger Israel's future as a democracy and Jewish homeland by making the occupation of another people permanent.
Israel's long-term future can only be secured by ending the conflict with the Palestinians. The two-state solution remains the only viable path to that goal. It goes without saying that such an agreement would need to include ironclad provisions to assure Israel's security. But there is no contradiction between these things.
Peace is possible and security is possible -- if there is the will to make it happen.