By Gideon Levy
At Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem, of all places, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a death certificate. The two-state solution died a long time ago, and now so has the Palestinians’ strategic choice of relying on the West in their struggle for their national rights.
This hope drew its last breath at Augusta Victoria. In his speech Biden mused at great length about his and his family’s time in the hospital; he remembered the intensive care ward. A flat line on the monitor meant death, he learned there. About an hour later, in Bethlehem, the monitor flatlined. The path the Palestinians embarked on 50 years ago has come to an end. They have reached a dead end.
At the beginning of the ‘70s, a new star appeared in the political skies: the cardiologist Issam Sartawi, a refugee from Acre, a student in Iraq, an exile in Paris and an architect of the plane hijackings. He underwent a complete change. He became the Palestinians’ trailblazer to the West’s heart; until then they had relied on nonaligned countries. Sartawi led the Palestinians to Bonn, Vienna, Paris and Stockholm instead of Moscow, Jakarta, Delhi and Kuala Lumpur.
This was depicted as an excellent choice. The protégé and even the darling of Western Europe’s social democratic stars of those days – Willy Brandt, Bruno Kreisky, Olof Palme and François Mitterrand – continued on to the Israelis’ hearts. Sartawi began with meetings with representatives of the Israeli left. Yasser Arafat enthusiastically joined the path his adviser had blazed. It seemed much more promising than winning support from Karachi.
Fifty years later this road has reached its end, with the Palestinians bleeding on the ground. An American president only gives them a few hours – on a visit that gives new meaning to the terms doing the minimum and lip service. So the time has come to awaken from the dream that Europe and America will ever do something for the Palestinians that won’t be to the satisfaction of their unassailable cherished one, Israel.
It’s a president who doesn’t bother to correctly pronounce the name of Shireen Abu Akleh, the journalist killed almost certainly by Israel, becoming a national and international symbol. Jamal Khashoggi he knows how to pronounce. The Palestinians no longer have anything to look for in this arena. When Biden quoted from a poem that says how “hope and history rhyme” and threw them $100 million for Augusta Victoria, it was clear that it’s lost with the United States.
With an American president who promises them a two-state solution, but “not in the near term,” you get to the end of the story. You feel like asking Biden: “What will happen ‘not in the long term’ that will achieve this solution? Will the Israelis decide on their own? Will the settlers return on their own? When there are a million of them instead of 700,000, will that satisfy them?
Will America ever think differently? Why should this happen? With the laws against BDS and the new and distorted definitions of antisemitism, the United States and Europe are lost as far as the Palestinians are concerned. The battle has been decided, Israel has all but beaten them, and their fate might be the same as that of the indigenous peoples in the United States.
It’s enough to look at the picture of the meeting in Bethlehem: Twelve grim Palestinian men in ties around the two leaders in a group photo of despair. It’s enough to recall Biden’s words in 1986 to the secretary of state at the time, George Shultz: “I hate to hear an administration … refusing to act on a morally important point. … I’m ashamed that this country puts out a policy like this, that says nothing, nothing.”
Biden was referring to U.S. policy on the previous apartheid country, South Africa. Amazingly similar remarks can be hurled now at Biden because of his approach to the second apartheid country. But there’s no Biden to hurl them.