On Israel-Palestine, the One State Lobby Is Winning

The House joined the Senate this week in passing a resolution, which Ha'aretz reports urges "President Barack Obama's administration to suspend financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority if its leaders push for a United Nations vote for unilateral recognition in September."

The AIPAC-drafted resolution, which was introduced by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his Democratic counterpart, Steny Hoyer, is the usual boilerplate which comes down to this: the Palestinians are obstructing peace, as usual while the Netanyahu government, also as usual, is vigorously pursuing an agreement. As usual, the resolutions include not a single word criticizing Netanyahu (who is expanding settlements with true abandon, despite repeated pleas from the United States that he freeze settlements to facilitate negotiations).

Naturally both the House and Senate resolutions passed with virtually no opposition. Not surprisingly, few members of Congress are willing to risk the wrath of some powerful donors over an essentially meaningless resolution.

Besides, and I say this with two decades of experience working on Capitol Hill, very few senators or House members care very much about Israel (or the Palestinians) one way or another. Why stick your neck out over an issue that is not very important to you?

This indifference to Israel (and the Palestinians) is one of the secrets of the lobby's success. It is also one of the reason J Street has had such a hard time making inroads on the Hill. The J Street approach requires actually caring about Israel and crafting a U.S. strategy that help would ensure its survival. The lobby approach requires reading AIPAC talking points into the Congressional Record and voting "aye" every time an AIPAC bill comes up. If one does not care much one way or another, why stand up against one of the most powerful interest groups Washington has ever known?

Think of it this way. If you had a sibling or a child in Congress and he or she asked you if he should just go along with AIPAC or bravely resist (risking campaign donations), what would you say?

The sad thing is that every victory by the lobby (or by the Netanyahu government which gives it its marching orders) undermines Israel's chances of survival. As Eric Alterman writes in this week's Jewish Forward, the success of the right in destroying prospects for the two-state solution is likely ensuring the triumph of the one-state alternative. (Consider Israel's "victory" over the flotilla this week which the Netanyahu government intends to follow with an even greater triumph over the Palestinians at the U.N. in September. Both bring to mind the Greek general Pyhrrus' statement about his victory over the Romans at Asculum in 279 BCE, "another victory like that and we're done for.")

That is sad for people like me who strongly favor a secure independent Israel living alongside a secure independent Palestine. It is however good news for those who dream of the day when Israel and Palestinians share a single democratic state which would likely be governed by the Arab majority.

That is why it is fair to call J Street, Americans for Peace Now and other pro-peace, anti-occupation organizations the two-state lobby while AIPAC, American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, etc, constitute the one-state lobby. If the latter succeeds, the whole Zionist enterprise will collapse.

Do they care? Who knows? One thing is clear: the "pro-Israel" forces in this country are wrongly labelled. They are not pro-Israel. They are anti-Palestinian. They believe that so long as the Palestinians are losing, Israel is winning. They have it precisely backwards.