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Friedman: The two-state solution and Israel's future

  • (MIKE LUCKOVICH / Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

I've written a series of columns from Israel in the past two weeks because I believe that if Secretary of State John Kerry brings his peace mission to a head and presents the parties with a clear framework for an agreement, Israel and the Jewish people will face one of the most critical choices in their history. And when they do, all hell could break loose in Israel. It is important to understand why.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not without reason, is asking the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the “nation state of the Jewish people,” confirming that if Israel cedes them a state in the West Bank, there will be two-states-for-two-peoples. But, for Netanyahu to get an answer to that question, he will have to give an answer to a question Israelis have been wrestling with, and avoiding, ever since the 1967 war reconnected them with the heartland of ancient Israel, in the West Bank, known to Jews as Judea and Samaria. And that is: “What is the nation state of the Jewish people?”

Kerry, by steadily making the answer to that question unavoidable, has set the whole Israeli political system into a roiling debate, with some ministers shrilly attacking Kerry and slamming Netanyahu for even putting the question on the table — as if the status quo were sustainable and just hunky-dory.

For instance, Kerry recently observed at a conference in Munich that if the current peace talks failed “there's an increasing delegitimization campaign that's been building up (against Israel). People are very sensitive to it. There are talks of boycotts and other kinds of things.”

Some Israeli ministers and American Jewish leaders blasted Kerry for what they said was his trying to use the BDS movement — “boycotts, divestment and sanctions” — as a club to pressure Israel into making more concessions. I strongly disagree. Kerry and President Barack Obama are trying to build Israelis a secure off-ramp from the highway they're hurtling down in the West Bank that only ends in some really bad places for Israel and the Jewish people.

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