March 9, 2017

One-State or Two-State Solution? Maybe.

Trump challenges the status quo of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

President Donald Trump went where few American politicians have dared to tread recently by making it known that he’s not too wrapped up over whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is solved with either a one-state or a two-state bargain.

“I like the one that both parties like,” he told reporters during a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February. “I can live with either one.”

At first glance, this may seem like a man tiptoeing through a controversial subject hoping to steer clear of getting caught up in it. Like the old New York joke, “Some of my friends like the Yankees. Some of my friends like the Mets. I agree with my friends.”

But nothing is as it seems when it comes to dealing with a conflict that goes back longer than any person now alive can remember.

Trump’s real message was that he is not going to follow the policy of his predecessor, who sought to put the onus on Israel to make things work between them and the Palestinians. Nor is Trump looking to follow the program set by European Union and the UN, both organizations looking to force Israel to make all the sacrifices, whether it be to placate the Arabs and the Palestinians or just because they cannot tame their own anti-Semitic streak.

Either way, Trump made it clear that he is no longer following the status quo. It doesn’t matter if he was deliberate in his choice of words at the press conference, or if he just stumbled into this new political strategy as a consequence of his trademark ambivalence. The point is very simple either way. The U.S. is not going to be party to a peace agreement in which terms are imposed on one party. Both sides must agree.

Well, good luck with that.

The one-state solution is frowned upon by many Israelis because they fear that their country will be overwhelmed by Palestinians and Arabs who will swamp the country and end the Jewish state through sheer force of will from the inside out. This is not an outlandish theory, as many (if not most) Palestinians still refuse to acknowledge the right of the Jewish state to exist.

It’s a bit hard to come to terms when your opponent wants you wiped off the face of the earth.

Miki Zohar, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, recently suggested that a one-state solution would be possible if the Palestinians were kept from being granted full citizenship or having the ability to vote for the Knesset.

“The two-state solution is dead,” Zohar told Israeli media.

The Trump administration let it be known in no uncertain terms that if the Israelis proceeded to annex any part of the West Bank, presumably in anticipation of pursuing this one-state model, it would set off an “immediate crisis.” Zohar’s proposal has since faded into the background.

The two-state solution has more support among the Israeli opposition. This is also the model being pushed by the international community. Unfortunately, there is little reason to believe this model is any more capable of delivering peace.

Hamas, which is sure to be a major force in any government that runs a Palestinian state, has been committed to Israel’s destruction for decades. In the long, sad tale of Israel-Palestinian relations, there have been few, if any, moments in which the Palestinians have come to the bargaining table with good intentions.

The efforts during the Clinton and Obama administrations both ended short of forging an agreement because the Palestinian side chose to crash and burn rather than strike a deal.

Trump has seen the outcome of these efforts, and he’s not looking to repeat those mistakes. His statement that he can live with either a one-state or two-state solution indicates that he’s not going to pick a framework and force both sides to live with it. He particularly won’t go a route that requires Israel to shortchange its territorial integrity or the safety and wellbeing of its citizens.

Trump is basically telling the Palestinians that if they want to be recognized on the world stage, and if they want to live autonomously, then they will have to negotiate in good faith on their own. Time will tell if they are truly capable of such a feat. So far, time has told that they’re not.

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