Posted by Kristin Mccarthy on July 28, 2016 in Blog
"Palestinians and Israelis on the ground are paying the price with human life and massive destruction for the inability of the U.S. not only to hold Israel to account but to follow through on its policy talk with policy action." - Sam Bahour


DSC_2355.JPGAAIF hosted an expert panel to debate how President Obama and the next President of the United States can end the occupation of Palestine. The panel featured AAI President Dr. James Zogby, Palestinian American businessman Sam Bahour, columnist and author Peter Beinart, and President of Americans for Peace Now Debra DeLee. Video of the panel can be found on our Facebook page in two parts (1 & 2).


Jim Zogby started the conversation with two sober realities: On the one hand, the highly politicized conversation about Palestinian statehood and rights that first started in 1988 has in someways lost ground within the Party. But on the other hand, a new poll from Zogby Research Services shows that 49% of Democrats and Republicans increasingly support equal rights for both Israelis and Palestinians. And, he noted, that an increasingly large number of Americans polled answer questions on Israel as "not sure," which suggests that there is an opportunity to impact the policy conversation from the ground up by reaching out to these people.

 There was a strong consensus that President Obama needs to move forward with a deliberate change in his policy before leaving office, and Debra DeLee suggested the window for him to do so is between the November 8th election and inauguration day in January 2017. However, panelists differed on what that action can be, and should be. Sam Bahour expressed concern and apathy towards the suggestion that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry should issue "U.S. parameters" for ending the conflict. Bahour says that the parameters exist, what needs to happen in order to implement the parameters and create the impetus for Israeli disengagement from the West Bank and Gaza is for President Obama to officially recognize the state of Palestine.

Peter Beinart reminded us of the important fact that there needs not only to be political action, but also societal action in order to create the space for political action to be successful. Beinart argued for a "societal pact" that can help move policy forward. The pact would hold: Advocates who work on this issue must call out real anti-Semitism anytime they hear it - in public and in private. And American Jews must be willing to always protect these same advocates from unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism that are used to intimidate and silence advocates who criticize Israel. 

The panelists seemed to agree on their answer to the two state solution versus one state solution question. While the one state all of the panelists related serious concerns with how a one state solution could be anything other than an apartheid state, and how the one state model can create a unifying national identity that can bind Israeli and Palestinians together to run the necessary mechanism of governance, including a multi-ethnic military.

This conversation is far from over in the American political life, but AAIF hosted the discussion in the hopes of educating Democratic delegates who are actively involved in American political life about the realities on the ground and the political realities that inform US policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

AAIF thanks our partners who supported this panel, the Foundation for Middle East Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, NIAC, and the George R. Salem Foundation.