When America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) CEO Howard Kohr, addressing AIPAC’s Policy Conference this past week, called for establishing a Palestinian Arab state, he inadvertently exposed a decades-old myth: that AIPAC only supports all policies of the Israeli government.
Kohr unequivocally stated: “We must all work toward that future: two states for two peoples … One Jewish with secure and defensible borders, and one Palestinian with its own flag and its own future.”
This is the policy of neither the Trump administration nor Israel.
President Trump has repeatedly stated that he supports any agreement that commends itself to both sides. Indeed, at this very AIPAC conference, neither Vice President Mike Pence’s speech nor Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s speech made any call for Palestinian statehood.
As for Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been clear that, under prevailing conditions, neither he nor his government are contemplating a Palestinian state. Furthermore, only two months ago, the internal committee of Likud, Israel’s ruling party, voted in favor or applying Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and eastern Jerusalem.
The Israeli public is no less at odds with Mr. Kohr: a January 2017 Maagar Mochot poll found that an overwhelming majority of 75% of Israelis support Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, while a March 2017 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs poll showed that 57% of Israelis oppose Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria.
It isn’t difficult to diagnose the reasons for Israelis’ lack of enthusiasm for Palestinian statehood. A Palestinian state is likely to fall into the hands of the terrorist organization Hamas, which calls in its Covenant for the destruction of Israel and the global murder of Jews. Indeed, a 2016 poll conducted by the Arab World Institute for Research and Development indicates that Hamas-affiliated parliamentary lists would win any Palestinian Authority (PA) elections that might be held –– assuming any transfer of power within the PA was peaceful.
Creating a Palestinian Arab terror state, largely immune from Israeli reprisals behind what would be sovereign borders, would greatly endanger Israel. Furthermore, as we have argued before, it is impossible to create a demilitarized Palestinian Arab state, even if demilitarization were an explicit provision in any peace treaty that provided for one.
Indeed, only this past week, Netanyahu said explicitly on the subject: “You can bring models, theoretical models, say it will be good if we give them a state … Empirically, it doesn’t work with what we see. When we leave land, terror organizations take it up. Immediately.”
And AIPAC’s record in recommending concessionary policies is long-standing
For example, AIPAC supported the disastrous 2005 Gaza withdrawal, which led to over 10,000 Jews being uprooted and enabled Hamas to take over the Strip and exponentially increase rocket fire into Israel, with the result that there have been three major Gaza wars since that date.
And of course AIPAC was an enthusiastic supporter of the original 1993 Oslo Accords, the greatest self-inflicted wound in Israel’s history. The cost of Oslo has included not only ultimately decreasing peace prospects, but, most tragically, many thousands of murdered and maimed Israelis as well.
I personally sat alongside Mr. Kohr testifying at congressional hearings on the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, in which he repeatedly conceded that arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat’s behavior required improvement, but also argued that Arafat was doing well enough to justify continued negotiations as well as continued U.S. diplomatic and financial support.
As we all know, Arafat eventually launched the 2000 terror war — the second intifada — that claimed the lives of almost 2000 Israeli civilians and wounded and maimed thousands more. Mr Kohr was deeply mistaken then as he is deeply mistaken now.
With a such a record of poor judgment and over-eager willingness to endorse the platitudes and orthodoxies of the day, AIPAC has lost the credibility to urge the U.S. or Israeli government to take such a life-and-death decision such as creating a Palestinian state.
But then the idea that AIPAC lobbies vigorously on behalf of Israeli policies no matter what is a long-standing myth. For example, AIPAC has never supported Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, though it has been privately asked to do so by past Israeli governments over the decades.
AIPAC also waited a year before supporting the Taylor Force Act, which would defund the PA if it continues to pay over $400 million annually in salaries to jailed Palestinian Arab terrorists and stipends to the families of dead terrorists. AIPAC only supported Taylor Force Act after it had been dramatically weakened.
And when it came to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, AIPAC proved altogether a paper tiger.
It should have been AIPAC’s moment. A nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat to Israel, and the deal provides a glide-path to Tehran acquiring a nuclear break-out capacity. Stopping the deal was, moreover, a bipartisan issue in Israel and the Jewish world, and AIPAC’s task was crystal clear. It was also far from being an impossible one: AIPAC needed only to secure the support of 13 of 46 Democratic senators to sink the deal. Yet, in the event, it was only able to secure the votes of four. This was a momentous failure.
All of that is in the past. AIPAC should seek now to undo some of the damage it has done by immediately retracting Mr Kohr’s speech in support of Palestinian statehood, and demanding an end to all US aid to the PA unless and until the PA ceases fund to terrorists and their families.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). He was named one of the top five influential Jews in America by a major national Jewish weekly. WWW.ZOA.ORG. Follow him on Twitter @Mortonaklein7.