Middle East peace depends on a Palestinian state

US President Donald Trump has muddied the waters by saying a one-state solution would be fine by him, but that ignores realities on the ground

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 4:35am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 4:35am

Relentless expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have made it less likely there will ever be a contiguous Palestinian state. But a two-state solution to the Middle East peace process has remained the goal of US and international diplomacy for decades, backed by successive Republican and Democrat administrations. That was until President Donald Trump threw it into serious doubt in unscripted remarks at a press conference last week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

After saying he was looking at “two states or one state, and I like the one that both parties like”, he spoke of a deal that “takes in many countries”, suggesting a regional formula.

What is the two-state solution and why is Donald Trump seeking a different path to Mideast peace?

Negotiations may be at a standstill and, with expansion of the settlements, a two-state solution may be in dire straits. But America’s withdrawal cripples the process for an occupied population dependent on international support to negotiate with the occupier. Instead, apart from asking Israel to hold back on settlement building “a little bit”, Trump committed himself to Israel’s priority – pushing back against what it sees as aggression and a future nuclear threat from Iran. The regional formula presumably holds out the prospect of an alliance against Iran.

Trump’s indifference to “two states or one state” suggested scant consideration of what a one-state solution would mean for Israel as a Jewish state, in which Jews could soon become a minority and Palestinians would have equal rights – or be second-class citizens. The first remains unappealing to Israeli factions and the second would boost efforts to boycott Israel, undermine its international legitimacy, and spur extremism.

Can Trump’s words on a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever become policy?

Trump may have pledged full support for Israel, but that will do nothing to alter the reality that to ensure its security and bring an end to the plight of Palestinians as second-class citizens, Palestinian extremists have to abandon the weapons of violence and terror, and Israel’s leaders have to strive for broad acceptance of the need for a just solution for the Palestinians. The two-state solution remains the most practical, however difficult it has been made.