US President Donald Trump on Wednesday did about-face on Palestine-Israel conflict. He abandoned the US policy on ‘two-state’ solution for Middle East peace. Trump, during a joint White House press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, held back from clearly supporting an independent Palestinian state. Trump said he would be open to a Mideast peace agreement that doesn’t include separate states for Israel and the Palestinians, dropping a long-held US position over the protracted conflict. Trump said he was more interested in an agreement that leads to peace than in any particular path to get there.
“I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said. “I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two states looked like the easier of the two. If Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I like the one they like the best.”
Though Trump promised to start negotiations on a peace agreement immediately, his proposition that peace isn’t dependent upon creating two separate nations reverses decades of American policy. Trump broke not only with recent US presidents but also distanced the United States from the prevailing position of much of the world.
American presidents have long struck a delicate balance in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although they maintained close US friendship with Israel, but also criticised Israeli settlement expansion.
Since 2002, all US presidents have formally backed the two-state solution as official policy. In practice, the US already had embraced the policy informally. President Bill Clinton, who oversaw the Oslo Accords in the 1990s that were envisioned as a stepping stone to Palestinian statehood, said that resolution to the conflict required a viable Palestinian state. There was not a single peace negotiation in recent decades that hasn’t assumed the emergence of an independent Palestine.
The two-state solution dates back to the 1937 Peel Commission, which recommended partition of what was then British Mandatory Palestine to stop Arab-Jewish violence. Now, Trump stance appears to offer dimmer prospects for peace, given Palestinian demands for statehood. As recent as last month, many countries, including the US, reaffirmed their support for a two-state accord at an international conference in Paris.
The Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War. The outline of a solution has emerged in previous US-led negotiations, including a border that is based on the 1967 lines but would include mutual land swaps to accommodate some of the larger Jewish settlements close to Israel. The alternatives to the two-state solution, which Trump has envisioned, would not be a fool-proof remedy for decades-old conflict. While a two-state solution would involve Israel ceding occupied territory and conducting democratic elections to decide who controls the government, Israelis believe a single bi-national state would be even more difficult to maintain. It would mean granting millions of Palestinians citizenship and voting rights. Hence, the two-state solution is the only viable option for Middle East peace.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that there would not be Plan B to the situation between Palestinians and Israelis but a two-state solution and everything must be done to preserve that possibility. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Netanyahu “should respond to President Trump by stopping all settlement expansion, including in east Jerusalem. Any deviation from the notion of two-state solution is a mere illusion. Israelis want a Jewish state and Palestinians want their own independent state. Nobody wants to live under the laws and customs of the other. They are already divided by religion, language, geography, believes and customs. Anybody with an iota of wisdom would not seek anything except two-state solution for Palestine-Israel conflict.