Rosenthal ’16: Doing our part for two states

Guest Columnist
Monday, December 3, 2012

Four years ago, many of us watched in horror as Israel began a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. Fast forward to these past few weeks, and violence has once again flared up in Gaza. Though the ceasefire brokered after a week of rockets and airstrikes has held, we are once again left with the question: What’s next?

Too many American politicians seem to have accepted the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a fact of life. In a leaked video, for example, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a group of wealthy donors that the United States’ role in the conflict should be to “kick the ball down the field.” He and many of our elected officials seem to have forgotten the people – both Palestinian and Israeli – whose lives are endangered every day by the status quo of occupation and violence.

These politicians also ignore the stated aim of the Palestinian Authority – to achieve national self-determination through a two-state solution – and many Israelis who support a similar goal. A return to the 1967 borders with reciprocal land swaps, including a shared, internationally guaranteed capital in Jerusalem, is the only viable option if we care about preserving Israel’s Jewish character and democratic nature while granting Palestinians true political rights and sovereignty. Both parties know this – both sides believed they were extremely close in 2008 when talks were last held. The peace process is short on leadership, not ideas.

Leadership is something that the U.S. government can provide. As Israel’s closest and most powerful ally, the United States is in a unique position of being able to actively influence the quality of peace negotiations between the two parties. But with great power comes great responsibility: America must take a stand and vigorously advocate for a two-state solution, not just for the political interests of the current Israeli prime minister. A resolution to the conflict is also in the United States’ national security interests in the Middle East. Continued lack of traction in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict radicalizes public opinion throughout the Middle East and makes it harder for moderate Arab regimes to take a pro-Western line. A peaceful resolution would contribute to the security of American forces and aid American diplomacy.

Yet the window for a viable two-state solution is closing. Support among Palestinians is waning and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, has already begun to seek alternate routes to Palestinian statehood. The violence in the Gaza Strip has put further strain on Israel’s relationship with the Palestinian Authority, and will make both sides less amenable to compromise. The escalation in Gaza has also served also a grim reminder of the dire conditions under which both Israelis and Palestinians live. The current situation, where Israelis lack recognized borders, Palestinians lack national sovereignty and both lack essential security guarantees, is not sustainable. It is of the utmost importance that the U.S. leadership take clear and definite steps to resume and progress peace negotiations.

But for that to happen, the conversation about Israel and Palestine has to transform into one about real challenges, real people and real solutions. Progress toward peace is currently stalled because the conversation is broken, and the conversation is broken mainly because it has been warped by special interests with right-wing political agendas that are far out of touch with the mainstream American Jewish community. Sheldon Adelson, who provided massive funds to the campaigns of both Mitt Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is a firm opponent of a two-state solution and encourages an uncompromising approach to the conflict. Yet the American Jews for whom he claims to speak for overwhelmingly support a two-state solution. If we want the voice of reason to be heard in Washington, then we have to organize and advocate.

That is precisely what J Street is all about. J Street, an organization that was founded to lobby for strong U.S. diplomatic leadership in bringing about a two-state solution, is a national movement with a new student chapter here at Brown. We’re oriented toward action both on campus and on a national level. To that end, we’ve joined with J Street U chapters across the country to deliver more than 8,000 postcards to our members of Congress, each signed by a student who supports strong American leadership toward a two-state solution. We presented these to Rep. David Cicilline ’83, D-R.I., to show the 113th Congress that this issue matters to us – and that the status quo is simply not acceptable.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been one of the world’s most intractable and hopeless. We have the power to change that. All across the country, we are making our voices heard. Our allies in Congress are advocating for our beliefs. We are building a new student movement. This is our time. Join us.


Eli Rosenthal ’16 is a member of J Street U Brown, a pro-Israel, pro-peace student group, working to achieve a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  • Anonymous

    great article, I completely agree that we need to work for a two state solution, however I do think you paint this in a bit of a skewed lens, with most of the blame on Israel and little blame on the Palestinians. No peace is ever going to be accomplished this way, both sides of done things wrong, not just Israel. I also think that saying peace processes have to be based on the 1967 borders is trivializing the issue a bit and ignoring anything that has happened in the 45 years since.

  • Harpo Jaeger

    10:32, I think Eli’s point about 1967 is just that the Green Line is generally considered the starting point for border negotiations. That’s been the approach in all recent peace talks, and it’s worked quite well – most of the land swaps are already agreed upon.

  • Mr B

    Mr Rosenthal, you are way too much one-sided on this issue, making Israel look like the Big Bad Wolf responsible for making the Palestinians miserable, like there is one assaulter and one big victim in this conflict…

    As Mr Anonymous #1 says just above, returning to the 1967 borders is not as simple as you would like us to believe. For example, it would notably imply that Israel would have to give the Golan back to Syria, which would represent a threat to Israel’s security, since the Golan, as a plateau, used to be a strategic position for Syria, from where Syria could target the whole Kinneret valley down below. UN Resolution 242, which calls for “safe and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force”, gives Israel international legitimacy to keep it as part of its territory.

    Everything is not black or white, young Padawan… Don’t let your eagerness blind you and prevent you from seeing the big picture.

  • Anonymous

    I think the idea behind the return to the ’67 borders is only applicable for the Palestinian people. And why is it so complicated? Every negotiation has started with those borders and they already have some validity in the form of the contemporary “green line.”

  • Anonymous

    I am stunned that what you consider facts that are indeed lies! I would assume that you have been brain washed and are just reiterating what is being fed into your void. Your first sentence proves my point, as well as your need for additional history lesson. Two state, yes, 1967 boarders, no! You are just in la-la land thinking that everything in life can just be solved because you wish it so…some things take GUTS, which you are lacking. Your view is just walk-a-way from what was NOT the so called Palestinians in the first place. DO YOUR HOMEWORK before you try to act like a man. I guess you think Hitler could have been reasoned with as well?

  • Zach

    In response to the most recent commenter, I don’t know what you’re envisioning if you talk about a 2-state solution not based around the ’67 borders. Where do you suggest we start instead? Please, if your going to reject the proposed solution, tell us what alternative you’re advocating for.

  • Harpo Jaeger

    Don’t feed the (11:26) trolls.
    Mr. B – Eli’s article doesn’t talk about the Golan, because that territory is not included in the two-state solution. Generally, when we talk about creating a Palestinian state, we’re referring to the West Bank and Gaza, not territory captured from Syria.

  • Mr B

    Harpo Jaeger – I know that, my point by saying that was that going back to 1967 borders may not necessarily be the best solution to ensure Israel’s safety. The Gaza strip was given back in 2005, a gesture from Israel to the Palestinians, all that Israel got in return was Hamas (let’s not forget that, a terrorist organisation recognized as such by basically the whole Western World) taking control over this enclave in 2007 and since then, rockets being launched on a day-to-day basis over Southern Israel. I agree that Israel sometimes reacts in a disproportionate way, but at least its intention is not to kill Palestinian civilians. We cannot say the same of the Hamas towards Israeli civilians… In this regard, how can you hope to make peace with such people? Palestinians should solve their inner problems before relevantly considering any two-state solution…

  • TAL

    Mr B,
    In response to “making Israel look like the Big Bad Wolf”:
    There is an important distinction to be made between placing blame on Israel and putting responsibility in the hands of the Israeli government to make peace.
    Lots of people are to blame for the messed up situation in the Middle East, but they don’t all have the power to make change.
    Because Israel is such a powerful and principled country, it has the responsibility to be the bigger player. And as Americans with an investment in Israel, our most effective approach to making peace is to work with the people with whom we know how to communicate. You’re right–there might be no good in talking to Hamas, but that does not mean Israel is excused from trying to work with the PA, Fatah, or some third party to make some progress.

  • Anonymous

    It’s great to hear about Brown students taking action to promote peace in the Middle East. The region needs a long-term solution to this particular conflict.

  • Anonymous

    Why do WE have to work on a two state solution? Isn’t the cause of this whole mess-o-potamia the fact that countries didn’t respect sovereignty in the first place? If these two parties don’t want to agree, any actions outsiders take to force a resolution doesn’t matter and only feeds into one party’s victimhood. There’s evidence enough that both sides here play victim to garner support. Stop supporting this grandstanding and get back to issues that the people actually involved actually want to solve in the near future. Hopefully one day that could be Israel, but I don’t see that happening now.

  • Anonymous

    We need this on every campus.