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Barely Anyone in Washington Supports the Two State Solution


Our Zoom call this week, for paid subscribers, will be at its regular time, Friday at Noon ET.

Our guest will be Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, host of Carnegie Connects, and an adviser to both Republican and Democratic secretaries of state on US policy on Arab-Israeli negotiations. Aaron knows the Biden foreign policy team well, and I want to ask him to analyze Biden’s policy toward Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the protest movement against it. I’m also curious about his views on recent proposals in Congress to condition US aid to Israel, and on the growing calls to abandon the two-state paradigm. I suspect his views on those subjects differ from mine—but that’s why I’m eager to hear them. 

As usual, paid subscribers will get the link this Wednesday and the video the following week. They’ll also gain access to our library of past Zoom interviews with guests like Thomas Friedman, Ilhan Omar, Omar Barghouti, Maggie Haberman, Noam Chomsky, and Bret Stephens.


Sources Cited in this Video

Michael Barnett, Nathan Brown, Marc Lynch and Shibley Telhami’s new Foreign Affairs essay, “Israel’s One-State Reality: It’s Time to Give Up on the Two-State Solution.” (I interviewed Marc and Shibley on a recent Zoom call.)

Yousef Munayyer’s 2019 Foreign Affairs essay, “There Will Be a One State Solution.”

A March Gallup poll, which shows that Democrats, who in 2013 expressed more sympathy for Israel than for the Palestinians by a margin of 35 points, now favor the Palestinians by 11 points.

For High School and College Students

A couple of years ago, Ezra Beinart (who, as the name might suggest, is my son) started a group that invites Palestinian speakers to answer questions from high school students via Zoom. They’ve now expanded it to college students as well. On Monday, May 8, from 8-9 PM EST, they’ll be joined by Representative Rashida Tlaib. If you know any students who might want to take part, they can register here.

Things to Read

In Jewish Currents (subscribe!), Dalia Hatuqa explains how Israel’s new government is straining a peace agreement with Jordan that many Jordanians already oppose.

On Mehdi Hasan and Ali Velshi’s shows on MSNBC, I talked about Republican claims that George Soros controls Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Fadi Quran argues that what most Israelis are protesting for is not democracy for “liberal ethnocracy.”

A Palestinian prisoner’s letter to his Israeli occupiers.

What it’s like to live in a country under American economic siege. 

If you’ve never read Rabbi David Hartman’s 1982 essay, “Auschwitz or Sinai?” it’s worth reading. More than forty years later, its critique of the way establishment Jewish political discourse uses antisemitism to avoid a moral reckoning with Jewish power remains, sadly, more relevant than ever.

See you on Friday,



Hi. Our guest this Friday is going to be Aaron David Miller, who was an advisor to secretaries of state of both parties on Arab-Israeli negotiations and who has since leaving government become a kind of prominent political commentator on the Middle East and Israel-Palestine. He’s at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. That’ll be on Friday for paid subscribers.

I wanted to talk a for a minute about an essay that’s been getting a fair amount of attention, at least in my circles, which was published in Foreign Affairs a few days ago by four well-respected international relations scholars: Michael Barnett, Nathan Brown, Marc Lynch, and Shibley Telhami. And the title is, “Israel’s One-State Reality: It’s Time to Give Up on the Two-State Solution.” By the way, I actually interviewed Marc Lynch and Shibley Telhami, two of the co-authors. This comes from the edited volume that they wrote recently published a few weeks ago, and that interview and all the past interviews are available to paid subscribers at my Substack website.

So, why is this essay significant? It’s not as if the idea of one equal state is new. Actually, the position of the Palestinian Liberation Organization from its founding in the 1960s until it embraced the idea of partition in 1988 was of a secular democratic Palestine although not, which is important to say, not a binational state but a state in which there would be equality for people of all religious faiths. Then, you know, twenty years ago or so you have writing by Edward Said and Tony Judt arguing for one equal state. So, this argument for one equal state has been made before even in Foreign Affairs. In 2019, Yousef Munayyer wrote an essay in Foreign Affairs called “There Will Be a One State Solution.”

But I do think it’s significant that this essay was the kind of lead essay that Foreign Affairs has published, that it’s gotten a lot of attention. And it’s significant because Foreign Affairs is not a leftist journal. It’s not an anti-establishment journal. It’s in fact the most establishment foreign policy journal in the United States. So, it represents more evidence that ideas that used to be marginal in the intellectual debate around Israel-Palestine are now much more mainstream: ideas like conditioning military aid, and even indeed one equal state rather than a Jewish state.

And this is, I think, again, part of a larger shift you can see in the public culture. If you look, just look at the New York Times editorial page or the Washington Post editorial page, in general you find more writing that, I think, is kind of from outside, or even critical, of a kind of political Zionist paradigm than you would have ten or even five years ago. And you see this clearly in the public opinion polling as well. So, Gallup came up with a poll in March, which showed that now Democrats now sympathize more with the Palestinians than with Israel. It’s a pretty dramatic shift. About ten years ago they favored Israel by about 35 points. Now, they’re more sympathetic to Palestinians by 11 points. So, there is clearly a shift happening, at least in progressive spaces in the public culture.

What AIPAC and the Democratic Majority for Israel have done is not effectively intervene in that public debate. I think that they’ve had very little impact in that public debate. But what they’ve done is they’ve essentially managed to build a wall which separates that public debate with its shifts moving in a kind of anti-Zionist direction from official Washington. They’ve done so by creating super PACs that take advantage of the fact that America’s campaign finance system has become essentially deregulated so that you can now raise money, spend money in almost unlimited quantities, pour it into Congressional Democratic primaries and be very, very effective—were very effective in the last midterm elections in essentially defeating progressive Democrats who had shown some support for Palestinian rights. And perhaps even more importantly, intimidating many other potential candidates out of taking a more pro-Palestinian position for fear of being targeted by AIPAC and DMFI.

These efforts were really successful, and they successfully froze, or even pushed back against the kind of generational shift that was leading Democrats in Congress, particularly in the House, to be to have more members like Jamaal Bowman and Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar and AOC, who are more pro-Palestinian. I think this Congress is no more Palestinian than the prior one, maybe even a little bit less. And I think a lot of that is because of the very effective interventions of DMFI and AIPAC. But there is a bit of an irony in this, because as much as AIPAC and DMFI can intervene effectively in American domestic politics, they can’t intervene very much in Israeli politics. And the shift in Israeli politics towards governments that clearly have no interest in giving Palestinians basic human rights, that in some ways is creating the political, cultural, intellectual shifts in the United States that then AIPAC and DMFI need to try to resist by cordoning off Washington with these campaign expenditures.

But I think a Foreign Affairs essay is another example of how the ascendant and dominant voices in progressive politics are crossing the kind of red lines that would have dominated conversation a decade ago. And so, the way this is often described is there’s now a debate between people who support one state and people who support two states. And I think that’s fundamentally wrong. There are people who genuinely support two states, generally support partition. I think J Street would be in that category. Jamaal Bowman is in that category. There are small number of progressive Democrats. But most of the people in Washington who say they support two states don’t actually support two states. So, to say that they support two states, and then that these people like now the Foreign Affairs essay writers or myself who say they support one state is fundamentally wrong it seems to me. These people claim they support two states, but they don’t actually support two states because they have never been willing to support any policies that would restrain Israeli settlement growth. And if you’re not willing to try to restrain Israeli settlement growth, given that Israeli settlement growth clearly makes a viable Palestinian state harder and harder, you don’t actually support two states.

It’s a little bit like me saying my position is that I support my running in the New York City Marathon. But if I don’t actually go out and train—I’ve never gone out and trained for New York City Marathon, I don’t go running at all—what I actually do is sit on my couch and eat chocolate cake, then my real position is not actually that I want to run the New York City Marathon. And I think that if you support unconditional support for Israel, as Israel takes actions that make a Palestinian state impossible, you don’t actually support a Palestinian state. And that is the position of the vast majority of Democrats in Congress. There are many more of those than there are people on the left who actually, genuinely want to try to condition American military aid and pressure Israel to keep a Palestinian state as a possible viable option, if it is indeed anymore.

And so, when there are a small number of Democrats like representative Andy Levin from Michigan, who genuinely do support a two state and try to actually push Israel in that direction, you see the groups like AIPAC and DMFI target Andy Levin even though they ostensibly support the two-state solution too. So, why are they so upset at him? Because he actually supports the two-state solution and is trying to do something about it. So, the really important debate that exists today is not between people who support two states and people who support one state, although again there are a small number of genuine supporters of the two-state solution. It’s really between the two visions of one state: a vision of a country in which all of the people under the control of the state have the right to participate politically, the right to citizenship, the right to vote, and the idea that the state will be controlled by one ethnoreligious group, that it will be owned by one ethnoreligious group, that it will be a Jewish supremacist state rather than an equal state.

And the reason I think it’s important to have clarity that that is actually the debate that now this in the United States is because it’s a debate that has ramifications not just for Israel-Palestine, but for the entire world. I think that it’s not a perfect analogy, but I think sometimes that the debate over the future of Israel Palestine is a little bit like the role that the Spanish Civil War played in the 1930s, which is to say Spain itself wasn’t that important a country. Israel-Palestine itself, given an age of geopolitical competition, isn’t necessarily that important a country. But what made the Spanish Civil War so important was that the ideological struggle in Spain between fascism and various forms of leftism was a debate that was happening all over the world, including in much more powerful places. And I think that’s the role that the debate over what kind of one state will exist in Israel-Palestine, that’s how it functions today as well. Which is to say that Israel as an ethnonationalist state, as a state based on Jewish supremacy, has become a model for people all over the world who want their own states to function that way.

Whether it’s Narendra Modi who wanted to turn India into a Hindu supremacist state. Or people in Eastern Europe, in Poland and Hungary, who want white Christian states. Or people in Western Europe, like Marine Le Pen, who want to do the same. Or Donald Trump and people who want the United States to essentially be a country that privileges white Christians, makes it harder for people who aren’t white and Christian to vote, makes it very difficult for people who aren’t white in Christian to immigrate. That essentially is a kind of an echo, a mirror of the debate that you’re seeing in Israel-Palestine. And so, I think the reason it’s important to be clear that the debate we’re actually having today in United States is about what kind of one state will exist is because that debate echoes around the world in really profound ways because there is a kind of a global struggle between these two visions, between the idea that states should be owned by all of the people who live inside of them, irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, race, gender, and the idea that states should be essentially the province of one dominant tribe. And that’s why I think the one state debate that’s happening now is really important. Again, on Friday we’ll be joined by Aaron David Miller. I hope many of you will become paid subscribers if you’re not, and join us.

The Beinart Notebook
The Beinart Notebook
Peter Beinart