Palestinians and Israelis Try To Understand New US Policy
Palestinians reacted angrily to President Trump’s apparent reversal of US policy favoring a two-state solution of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip next to Israel. In a news conference with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the President said he would accept either a two-state solution or a one-state solution, whichever both parties prefer.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office issued a statement that it remains committed to the two-state solution. The statement also slammed Netanyahu’s demands for continued Israeli security control over the West Bank and Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
It said these preconditions “are considered a continuation of the attempt to impose facts on the ground and to destroy the two-state option while replacing it with the principle of one state with two systems – Apartheid.”
President Trump also asked Israel to “hold back” on settlements, a request that was brushed off by hardliners in the Israeli government, who trumpeted the end of the possibility of the two-state solution.
“This is the end of an era,” Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennet, who advocates Israeli annexation of a large part of the West Bank said. “The Palestinian flag has come down and has been replaced by the Israeli flag. The prime minister displayed leadership and daring and strengthened Israel’s security.”
Palestinian analysts said that Trump showed a clear preference for Israel.
The only practical outcome is that it empowers the right wing in Israel and gives them a green light for further settlement expansion,” Ghassan al-Khatib, a professor of political science at Bir Zeit University told The Media Line. “Now Israel will have no restrictions on settlement expansion.”
He said the Palestinian public was not surprised by the outcome, and feels that US policy has long favored Israel. This is just one more step in this direction. Khatib warned that the new US position could increase support for the Islamist Hamas that controls Gaza, as Hamas has never favored the two-state solution.
A new study released today by two prominent think tanks – one Israeli and one Palestinian – found that 55 percent of Israelis and 45 percent of Palestinians – still favor a two-state solution.
The question is what President Trump meant by a “one-state solution.” Some Palestinian intellectuals have been arguing that Jewish settlement building in the West Bank has made a two-state solution impossible, and Palestinians should work toward a one-state solution, meaning that Israel would annex the West Bank and Gaza Strip, giving each person a vote. Based on demographic trends, there would eventually be a Palestinian majority in the entire state.
Long-time Israeli Arab Knesset member Ahmed Tibi seemed to favor this scenario in an interview with Army Radio.
“If there is one state, it will be one person, one vote, I’ll run against Bibi and win,” Tibi said, using Netanyahu’s nickname.
Some in Israel also cautioned that it was too early to say there has been a conclusive change in US policy.
“The administration is shaping its policy and it is too early to be optimistic or pessimistic,” Yaakov Amidror, the former head of Israel’s National Security Council told The Media Line. “It is crucial that this meeting took place and the administration is building something new in Washington.”
He said it was clear that on the personal level, it was clear that President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu have a good relationship. In the long run, however, each leader will put the interest of his country first. In some cases, as on the question of Iran and nuclear power, those interests overlap. But in other situations, including on settlements, that may not be the case.