A Biden Speech to Transform the Middle East

Photograph Source: Matt Johnson – CC BY 2.0

President Biden has a problem. He wishes to escape from the Middle East quagmire and focus American foreign policy on the perceived China threat. However, in the wake of the recent Israeli-Palestinian carnage, there is no escape. He must do something. But what? Doing the same thing yet again while hoping for a different result is the definition of insanity.

Having already surprised observers by his boldness in domestic policy, he could do so in foreign policy as well by offering a new vision of Middle East peace in a prime-time, televised speech.

A conclusion to his speech along the following lines would offer, in homage to President Obama, both change to believe in and audacious hope and could produce a far better future for Israelis, Palestinians and all mankind than most people would dare to dream possible in these somber days:

“During the three decades since the Palestinian leadership formally committed itself to seeking peace with Israel through a ‘two-state solution’, virtually the entire international community has subscribed to that goal. Unfortunately, during those same three decades, the realistic possibility of actually achieving a decent ‘two-state solution’ has become more remote with each passing year. Constantly expanding ‘facts on the ground’ which render a viable and coherent Palestinian state virtually inconceivable have aggravated the multitude of excruciatingly complicated and difficult ‘final status issues’ which have proven too sensitive even for serious discussion between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships. As a result, most knowledgeable and realistic observers have reluctantly concluded that a decent ‘two-state solution’ is no longer possible.

“I therefore call on Israelis, Palestinians and all who truly care about peace, justice and the best interests of both Israelis and Palestinians to consider the only other acceptable alternative — democracy: a single state in all of the land which both Israelis and Palestinians love and consider rightfully theirs, with full and equal rights for both peoples and free of any form of discrimination based on race, religion or any other distinction, in accordance with the inspiring aspiration of the United States and all true democracies.

“Just as marriage is vastly less complicated than divorce, democracy is vastly less complicated than partition. A democratic solution to this century-old conflict would not require any borders to be agreed, any division of Jerusalem, anyone to move from their current home or any assets to be evaluated and apportioned. Full rights of citizenship would simply be extended to all surviving members of the indigenous population still living in the country, as happened in the United States in the early 20th century and in South Africa in the late 20th century.

“The obstacle to such a simple and morally unimpeachable solution is, of course, ethical, intellectual and psychological — on both sides of the current divide. No one would suggest that the ethical, intellectual and psychological transformations necessary to achieve a democratic solution will be easy. However, since the only transformations necessary would be in the human mind, they could occur suddenly under proper leadership and inspiration. In any event, it is in no one’s interests to waste further time before striving to inspire hearts and minds to accept the only remaining acceptable alternative to perpetual hatred and bloodshed.

“In this context, Israelis might wish to consider and reflect upon the experience of white South Africans. The transformation of South Africa’s racial-supremacist ideology and state system into a truly democratic one has liberated white South Africans, as well as black South Africans, and has transformed white South Africans from international pariahs into people welcomed throughout their region and the world. It has also ensured the permanence of a strong and vital white presence in southern Africa in a way that prolonging the flagrant injustice of a racial-supremacist ideology and state system and imposing fragmented and dependent ‘independent states’ on the indigenous peoples could never have achieved. This is not a precendent to dismiss. It is one that could and should inspire.

“As an incentive to encourage all Israelis to adopt a more humanistic, humane, hopeful and democratic view of present realities and future possibilities and as an accomodation to those Israelis who might have difficulty doing so, the United States would commit, upon the implementation of such a democratic one-state solution, to welcome in the United States any Jewish Israelis who held Israeli citizenship as of today and who would then prefer to resettle in the United States, according them an immediate right of residence and a fast track to citizenship. The United States would also encourage other countries, particularly those with a moral obligation toward the Jewish people, to make the same generous offer.

“I solemnly call upon not only Israelis and Palestinians but on nations and peoples everywhere to unite to make this vision of peace through democracy and equal rights a reality and, by doing so, to make the world in which we live and in which future generations will live a far better and safer world than the one in which we have lived in recent decades and in which we live today.”

Likely? Of course not. Possible? Absolutely. All that is needed is an American president with true ethical values and a genuine belief in democracy who is willing to risk putting the interests of his country and mankind ahead of narrow calculations of personal political self-interest.

If President Biden dared to advocate democracy as the path to peace for Israelis and Palestinians at the start of his presidency and to press for its achievement in the years remaining to him, it could happen. No greater service to mankind can be imagined.

John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who as advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.

[i]
[i]
[CDATA[ $('input[type="radio"]
[CDATA[ $('input[type="radio"]
[CDATA[ $('input[type="radio"]
[CDATA[ $('input[type="radio"]