Trump Drops Palestinian State From U.S. Agenda

"I'm looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like. I can live with either one," said Trump.

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — REUTERS
Feb 16, 2017 at 7:55 AM ET

President Donald Trump broke with decades of American foreign policy by sidestepping a commitment to an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution in a joint news conference with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

“I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like. I can live with either one,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday. He reasserted his dedication to making a deal between the two sides, adding that concessions for Israelis might include holding “back on settlements for a little bit.”

Palestinians would need “to get rid of some of that hate that they’re taught from a very young age.  They’re taught tremendous hate … It starts at a very young age … and they have to acknowledge Israel,” said Trump, without elaborating.

Trump’s claim echoed a long-held Israeli right-wing position that Palestinians are unable to make peace because they hate Israelis and Jews, without acknowledging their grievances related to Israeli aggression, occupation policies and West Bank settlement expansion.

Many Palestinian and Israeli leaders assert that a two-state solution—an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza alongside Israel—is the only acceptable resolution to the intractable conflict.

But as the brutal conflict shows no signs of abating, and Israel marks 50 years of occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, polls show that a growing number of both Israelis and Palestinians no longer support the two-state idea as a realistic possibility.  While the international attention around peace negotiations has made Palestinians among the top recipients of foreign aid per capita, much of that money and influence is concentrated in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Peace negotiations, which have long stagnated, also brought Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to power in 2005, in what was supposed to be a four-year term.  Twelve years later, Abbas is still in power, despite his low popularity and his advancing age.

The one-state solution, though, is problematic for both sides. If Israel swallows the Palestinian territories but maintains two systems, it risks being an apartheid state.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat insisted on Wednesday that the only other alternative was “one single secular and democratic state with equal rights for everyone, Christians, Muslims, and Jews, on all of historic Palestine.” But such a solution would make Israeli Jews a minority in their own homeland, and would require a re-thinking of the importance of the state’s Jewish character.

For many Palestinians, the meaning or details of a one-state solution remains unclear. But following the Trump-Netanyahu meeting, enthusiasm on social media was made clear in the eruption of the hashtag #Palestine_from_the_river_to_the_sea, referring to the pre-1948 state’s borders spanning from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

Caption: “The two-states solution existed only in the mind of the defeated, the traitor and the [pro-Israel] ‘agent.’”

Caption: What will they do: all the countries, governments and organizations that spent all this time on the “two-state” solution, that couldn’t happen?

Under Netanyahu, the Israeli settler population in the West Bank has ballooned to more than 350,000 residents. They have caused a logistical nightmare for Israeli security forces who do not technically have jurisdiction in parts of that area, and have clashed with the more than 2.5 million Palestinians living there. While demographers have in recent years projected that Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will eventually outnumber the Israeli Jewish population, settlers say the West Bank is their historic and divine birthright. They say they are planning to only expand their presence in the territory which Palestinians envision as part of their future state.

Settlers are led by far-right Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, who advocates annexing 60% of the West Bank and “autonomy on steroids” for Palestinians in the remaining areas. Following Trump’s victory in November, he hailed the end of “the era” of the Palestinian state.

On Saturday, he threatened Netanyahu against uttering the words “Palestinian state” at the meeting with Trump, which Netanyahu essentially obeyed. At the Wednesday press conference, Netanyahu said that he wasn’t interested in “labels” such as the two-state solution, and instead spoke about Israel’s new alliances with moderate Sunni Muslim states and its opposition the Iranian bid for hegemony in the region.

In response, Bennett and the Israeli far-right celebrated.