What’s Missing in POLITICO’s Look at the “Two-State Solution Act”

On Sept. 23, 2021, Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the “Two-State Solution Act” to “to preserve conditions for, and improve the likelihood of, a two-state solution that secures Israel’s future as a democratic state and a national home for the Jewish people, and a viable, democratic Palestinian state.” Yet, news coverage of Levin’s proposed legislation omitted crucial details and relevant history.

POLITICO, hours before the bill dropped, offered an “exclusive look.” Writing for the magazine’s National Security Daily brief, reporters Alexander Ward and Quint Forgey detailed the proposed law, which currently has 18 co-sponsors.

The act asserts that “only the outcome of a two-state solution can both ensure the state of Israel’s survival as a democratic state and a national home for the Jewish people and fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.” This language isn’t unusual, or surprising. But what’s interesting about Levin’s proposed legislation are the numerous false and misleading claims contained in the bill—many of which are uncritically echoed by Ward and Forgey.

The act, for example, refers to the “West Bank” (Judea and Samaria), “East Jerusalem” and Gaza as “occupied territories”—and calls for them to be referred to as such in official U.S. policies, communications and documents. These areas, Levin’s legislation asserts, are “occupied Palestinian territories” and, accordingly, the establishment of “Israeli settlements” there are “inconsistent with international law.”

Yet, as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) has frequently noted, a sovereign Palestinian Arab state has never existed. Rather, the status of the territory is, at best, disputed. Its status is to be resolved by negotiations anticipated by UN Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim accords, the 2003 international “road map,” and related diplomatic efforts.

Indeed, the co-authors of Resolution 242, US Under Secretary of State Eugene Rostow, US Ambassador to the United Nations Arthur Goldberg, and British ambassador Lord Caradon made clear, both then and later, that Jews and Arabs both had claims in the territories, and that no national sovereignty over them had been recognized since the end of Ottoman rule.

Several news outlets, such as the Washington Post, have even noted as much in corrections that were prompted by CAMERA. The Wall Street Journal, for example, even acknowledged on May 16, 2020: “Under the Oslo accords, sovereignty over the West Bank is disputed, pending a final settlement.” By calling the areas “occupied” and “Palestinian territories” both Levin, as well as POLITICO, are effectively prejudging an outcome and, if unintentionally, rendering the need for negotiations—which Levin and his organizational backers like J Street claim to support—moot.

Additionally, there is a legal basis for Jewish claims to the land. As CAMERA has documented (see, for example, “The West Bank—Jewish Territory Under International Law”), Israel has a foundation for asserting sovereignty over the area. Additionally, the League of Nations Palestine Mandate, adopted later by the United Nations, calls for “close Jewish settlement on the land” west of the Jordan River in Article 6. The UN Charter, Chapter XII, Article 80, upholds the Mandate’s provisions. The 1920 San Remo Agreement and the 1924 Anglo-American Convention also enshrined Jewish territorial claims in international law.

Yet, these legal arguments are completely ignored by both Levin and POLITICO. Unfortunately, this isn’t surprising. J Street, which has endorsed Levin, consistently omits this relevant history. And, in his previous occupation as a reporter for Vox, so did POLITICO’s Ward. Other relevant history is also omitted.

For example, Jews are from Judea and Samaria, an area that only in the last half-century or so has been referred to as the “West Bank.” The Jewish presence in the land of Israel predates that of the Arab and Islamic conquests in the 7th century — by thousands of years. And that presence has been continuous. In Jerusalem, for example, Jews have constituted a majority of the inhabitants since the 1840s.

Levin’s bill, POLITICO states, is backed by “left-leaning pro-Israel” organizations like J Street. Yet, it might not “make it out of Congress” because “conservative groups, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), will assuredly lobby against the legislation.” J Street, however, can’t be accurately described as “pro-Israel.”

As CAMERA has noted, J Street board members have argued that Israel shouldn’t exist and the organization has partnered with anti-Israel groups like the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), whose employees have used antisemitic tropes. J Street campus activists have also harassed pro-Israel students, and the supposedly pro-Israel group has defended Rep. Ilhan Omar, who tried to go on a trip to Israel that was sponsored by a group called Miftah, which has praised suicide bombers and claimed that Jews consume Christian blood.

Nor can AIPAC be described as “conservative.” AIPAC itself doesn’t take political positions and the group has former Republican and Democratic officials on its board and as supporters.

POLITICO also gave short shift to criticisms of the proposed legislation. But as the Times of Israel (TOI) noted, “the bill is strongly opposed by more moderate Democrats, who say it demands nothing of the Palestinians.” The Democratic Majority for Israel called the proposed law “counter-productive, one-sided and bad policy.” Indeed, among other problematic items, the bill “also calls for the scrapping of the 1987 Anti-Terrorism Act, which deems the PLO and its affiliates a terror organization,” TOI reporter Jacob Magid noted. The PLO, however, still supports terrorist attacks.

Perhaps the most glaring error, however, comes in the decision to blame Israel for the lack of a Palestinian state. The legislation, POLITICO tells readers, says that “settlement expansion, demolitions of Palestinian homes, revocations of residency permits, and forced evictions of Palestinian civilians by Israel impede the establishment of a Palestinian state and violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.”

This is revisionism at its worst.

There is a simple reason for the lack of a Palestinian state: Palestinian leaders don’t want one if it means living in peace next to Israel. History tells us as much. Palestinian leaders have rejected—without counteroffer—proposals for a “two-state solution” on numerous occasions, including in 1937, 1947, 2000, 2001 and 2008, among other instances.

The 2008 offer, made by Israel, included 93.7% of the “West Bank” with land swaps for the remainder and a Palestinian capital in eastern Jerusalem. Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas rejected it. In 2014 and 2016, this proposal was used by the U.S. as the basis for negotiations for a “two-state solution”—negotiations that Israel accepted, and which the PA, rejected. Indeed, the original 1947 U.N. Partition Plan called for two states, one Jewish and the other Arab, but, while Zionist leaders accepted the plan, Arab leaders did not, choosing to go to war against Israel instead.

More than seven decades later, that war has continued unabated, fueled in large measure by both policymakers and press who can’t, or won’t, speak openly and honestly about the Palestinian insistence on denying Jewish people the right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland. Even today, contravening the Oslo Accords, which created the PA, the Authority’s leaders and official media, continue to deny Israel’s right to exist.

Levin’s legislation doesn’t say it—and neither does POLITICO—but the reason why a “two-state solution” hasn’t come to pass is the fault of Palestinian Arab leadership alone. Pretending otherwise only enables their intransigence.