J Street welcomes and commends Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s statement of support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his speech today to the United Nations General Assembly. After many years in which successive right-wing Israeli prime ministers distanced themselves from or outright opposed the pursuit of two states, Prime Minister Lapid’s statement to the world is extremely important.
The prime minister’s comments are an important reminder that responsible Israeli leaders and security officials have long made clear a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is absolutely necessary to safeguard Israel’s security and secure its future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.
Sadly, as right-wing Israeli leaders have moved over the past decade to oppose the two-state solution and to implement pro-settlement policies designed to prevent it, they have only succeeded in making the situation on the ground more unsafe, unjust and unstable. By embracing and empowering an extreme vision for creeping annexation and permanent control over the West Bank, they have also undercut those who remain committed to negotiating a peaceful resolution and empowered the most violent and extreme elements in Palestinian society. With no apparent horizon for diplomatic progress to end the conflict and 55 years of occupation, the situation is at a boiling point, with the Palestinian Authority appearing on the brink of collapse and tremendous uncertainty about what could come next.
The unsustainable, rapidly deteriorating status quo makes it even more vital for Israeli leaders to recommit to the two-state solution, to take tangible steps to make it a reality, and to lay out the true stakes for Israeli voters ahead of the country’s November elections. Prime Minister Lapid’s speech today was an important step in the right direction.
It was also encouraging to see a ministerial meeting convened at the United Nations this week to discuss prospects for reviving the Arab Peace Initiative, which for twenty years has served as a prospective basis for Israeli-Palestinian peace and full normalization of Israeli ties with all members of the Arab League. It is clear that while the Israeli public is not focused on a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they are deeply energized by the prospect of regional normalization and integration. This enthusiasm can and must be harnessed in service of steps toward ending the occupation and the conflict.
To make a real impact, the prime minister’s remarks must be followed up by meaningful action to reinvigorate diplomacy, enhance engagement with Palestinian leaders who seek a peaceful resolution, and reverse harmful policies that have deepened occupation and exacerbated the conflict. It is critical for the US government to do everything it can to encourage such steps, and to emphasize to their Israeli counterparts that the current situation is deeply dangerous and unsustainable.