The new US administration led by Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that ending the Israel-Palestine conflict through a two-state solution is no longer a strategic choice. One of Trump’s aides told reporters, “A two-state solution that doesn’t bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve.”
The White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “If I ask five people what a two-state solution is I get eight different answers… Peace is the goal, whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution, if that’s what the parties [Israel and the Palestinians] want, or something else.”
According to the Jerusalem Post, ahead of Wednesday’s meeting between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the US president is to reinforce his desire to reach a “comprehensive agreement that would end the Israeli- Palestinian conflict,” without any indication that the two-state proposal is, indeed, the solution.
This shows US disinterest in such a solution, which the Palestinians are hoping for, in order to establish an independent state on the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is what most of the international community also wants, or so we have been led to believe.
Trump has made a dramatic shift from a position held by the US for decades. His immediate predecessor, President Barack Obama, saw two states as the only way out for the conflict. For the Israelis, though, pushing this solution to one side has been deep-rooted in their psyche since Israel was created in historic Palestine in 1948. Its abandonment was trailed openly by Israeli officials in the run up to Netanyahu’s visit to the US this week.
Both Netanyahu and his Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan have now claimed that “settlements are not an obstacle to peace”; the prime minister’s comment came in response to Trump asking him to “pull back on settlements for a little bit.” The US president knows as well as anyone else that settlements are the main issue, because they take ever more of the land earmarked for the State of Palestine; in fact, they are integral to Israel’s colonisation of Palestine. Hence, they undermine the two-state solution, which is what they are intended to do.
The evidence that the “two-state solution” has been an elaborate charade to buy time for Israel to steal more Palestinian land has been obvious for years; many Israeli politicians have made it clear that it is not on their agenda at all. Erdan, for example, was merely echoing his previous remarks about the two-state solution. At an International Institute for Counter-Terrorism conference in 2014 he suggested that, “To continue talking about Palestinian statehood with the same determination and the same confidence as 15, 20 years ago is irresponsible.”
His cabinet colleague, Culture Minister Miri Regev, insisted that there is a chance for only one state between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan, calling for Israel to weigh its options regarding the Palestinians, from “citizenship to autonomy,” the Times of Israel reported.
The newspaper also pointed out that Equality Minister Gila Gamliel called on the Israeli government to adopt a 2012 report that recommended legalising illegal (even under Israeli law) West Bank settlement outposts. So did Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, who also called on Netanyahu to tell Trump “no” to a Palestinian state. The “legalisation” bill passed through the Knesset last week.
Netanyahu actually pledged not to establish a Palestinian state on his watch during the 2015 election campaign. He told voters that if they re-elected him as prime minister, a Palestinian state would not be created, reported Haaretz at the time. “I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate territory gives territory away to radical Islamist attacks against Israel,” he claimed.
Haaretz also noted that when Netanyahu formed his current government, he chose an official who is against the establishment of a Palestinian state to be in charge of talks with the Palestinian Authority. “We are all against a Palestinian state, there is no question about it,” the official in question told a Likud meeting in 2012.
For the main coalition ally in Netanyahu’s government, Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett, it would be a “disaster for the next 200 years” if a Palestinian state was established. “There is not going to be a Palestinian state within the tiny land of Israel,” he told The Guardian four years ago. “It is just not going to happen.”
In 2013, Israel’s Transportation Minister Israel Katz was reported by JPost as saying: “I am opposed to a Palestinian state… It is unacceptable, mainly because of our rights to this land… In my eyes, the right diplomatic solution is an autonomous Palestinian entity, but with Jordanian civilian and political affiliation.”
The top Israeli diplomat at the UN, Danny Danon, has told Israeli National Radio that he does not believe in the two-state solution at all. “Enough with the two-state-solution. Land-for-peace is over. We do not want a Palestinian State. We need to apply Israeli sovereignty over all Jewish communities in the West Bank.”
Despite all of this evidence, Barack Obama said in May 2015: “I continue to believe that a two-state solution is absolutely vital for not only peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but for the long-term security of Israel as a democratic and Jewish state.” However, even he acknowledged that Israel’s government “contains some folks who don’t necessarily believe in that premise.”
Why do Palestinian Authority officials continue to believe in the two-state solution? For a start, it has been drummed into them for decades that they have to accept whatever solution is imposed on them by the international community. In their hearts, though, surely even they must know that it is becoming increasingly unlikely that a state will be established that they can call their own. They have, after all, seen US presidents, European prime ministers and UN secretaries-general come and go, and not one of them has been able – or willing – to fulfil their promises to the Palestinians.
We shouldn’t be surprised, therefore, at what Donald Trump said in his press conference with Netanyahu. The US president hasn’t killed the two-state solution; it died long ago, if, indeed, it was ever a real possibility at all.