Two-State Solution Is The Only Way Israel Can Avoid Becoming a Discriminatory State

02/16/2017 01:14 pm ET Updated Feb 17, 2017

Donald Trump says he will leave it to the Israelis and Palestinians to decide if there will be one state or two in the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. What may appear to be quite accommodating on his part as he strives to become the ultimate presidential deal maker of a peace between the two parties would in fact be a recipe for a destiny of disaster and discrimination.

Trump’s sideways embrace of a one-state solution emboldens hardliners on both sides of the intractable problem. Israeli right wingers will see it as a wink and a nod toward usurpation of more and more Palestinian land. The inevitable outcome such a land grab would overturn democratic principles long cherished by Israelis and their supporters abroad, both Jewish and non.

To retain its Jewish identity after taking over land where 2.7 million Palestinians live, Israel would either have to expel them to neighboring Arab states or deny them equal rights, keeping them as a permanent, disenfranchised underclass. Otherwise, within decades voting age Palestinians would outnumber Jews within an enlarged Israel.

It is inconceivable to me that Jews, who for millennia suffered expulsions and inferior status, would countenance such actions upon another people, that they would spurn the natural desire of another people to have their own homeland.

Hardline Palestinians favor a one-state solution because of the demographic balance of power and the long-game calculation that, as with South Africa, the world will not tolerate their suppression. No matter how many patents Israelis register that improve human life, at the end of the day the Jewish state will be trampled under the weight of history.

A single-state solution simply and tragically solidifies the worst, most intolerant sectors of Israeli and Palestinian societies, those who want hegemony not compromise, those who savor hatred not enmity, those who view religion as a cudgel not a balm for mankind.

Bibi Netanyahu’s unequivocal demand that Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and that Israel retain security control of the land west of the Jordan River is appropriate and in no way should thwart Palestinian participation in any peace talks, given what transpired in the Gaza Strip after Israel withdrew from the captured territory.

A two-state solution can and must be hammered out. Trump’s ambivalence toward endorsing a distinct Palestinian state may be a negotiating ploy but it sends a counterproductive message to extremists on both sides of the conflict.

American Jews are conflicted, torn between two countries they most care about–Israel and America—and the democratic, progressive values both countries have long espoused. A nation cannot claim democratic values while denying rights to those within its areas of jurisdiction.

The United States experienced its defining moment more than 150 years ago. Patriots—and they thought of themselves as patriots—argued for, fought for, and died for the right to keep another human being as property. Southerners were wrong to believe people of color were inferior creations.

Seven decades ago prejudice-almost-two-millennia-old culminated in a holocaust also based on a belief that a group of people were inferior creations.

Today Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, must confront its future amid dangers within and without its borders.

Outside its borders the threat is evident. Inside, however, the threat is equally real from hardline right wingers whose zealotry demands an expansive Israel in the West Bank. At the same time, ultra Orthodox religious zealots deny the validity of divergent sects within the Jewish faith. They are pursuing an exclusive theocracy that Netanyahu has permitted in his determination to remain prime minister. His spineless response to discriminatory religious provocations erodes support of Israel from Diaspora Jews.

No one should underestimate the existential threat posed by Palestinian and Arab intransigence towards its existence, particularly not during this time of Islamic terrorism that condones, even encourages, suicide missions. It is safe to say Israel’s borders, whatever they may ultimately be, would be the most vulnerable in its history.

But that does not provide justification for keeping nearly three million Palestinians in a condition lower than second class citizenry. It does not provide justification for its legislature and executive branch to override a judiciary ruling forbidding expropriation of Palestinian property. It does not provide the moral high ground Israel once deserved and was accorded.

It is impossible for Israel to negotiate a two-state solution, peace and mutual recognition with no one on the other side of the bargaining table. But it is equally impossible for Israel to continue indefinitely as the governing authority over West Bank Palestinians. Annexation of territory is not a long-term solution. New settlement construction on disputed land is not a long-term solution.

Asking the military to enforce a politically divisive position undermines Israel’s national character. Remember Vietnam. An unpopular war tore America apart.

It bears repeating: A nation cannot claim democratic values while denying rights to those within its areas of jurisdiction.

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