All recent murmurings from the White House signal the Israel-Palestine two-state solution is dead

Until recently for the international community, the concept had been the generally accepted way to begin resolving the 70-year conflict

Bel Trew
Tuesday 30 April 2019 14:12 BST
Jared Kushner on Israel: 'The pursuit of peace is the noblest pursuit of humankind'

Twice Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s smooth-talking son-in-law, has dodged questions as to whether their long-awaited peace plan for Israel and the Palestinian territories would include a two-state solution.

The so-called “deal of the century” would be delivered in June after Ramadan, he confirmed at a TIME live event.

“If people focus on the old traditional talking points we will never make progress,” he said.

“We have taken an unconventional approach, we have studied all the different past efforts and how they failed. We have tried to do it a little bit different,” he added.

Until recently for most of the international community, the concept of a two-state solution had been the generally accepted way to begin resolving the 70-year conflict: the creation of two states, Israel and Palestine, with the borders that roughly follow the 1967 Green Line.

In September, Donald Trump said he “liked” the idea of a two-state solution, adding he felt that it “works best”.

But since then, all the murmurings from the White House signal the two-state idea is dead.

At the same time, amid the scrum of an Israeli general election, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who later won the vote despite campaigning under the shadow of a corruption trial, was clearer on this point than ever. Along the campaign trail, he ruled out the possibility of Palestinian statehood and pledged to begin annexing illegal Israeli Jewish settlements that stretch deep into the West Bank. This would be illegal under international law.

He is expected to build a governing coalition of mostly religious and nationalist parties who also reject Palestinian independence.

Because of Netanyahu’s platform, commentators said the victory of his Likud Party and its right-wing allies showed a strong indication that Israelis were edging towards a one-state future.

A survey by the Israel Democracy Institute said that support for the two-state solution among Jewish Israelis has plunged from nearly 70 per cent in 2008 to just 47 per cent last year. That was even less among Israel’s younger population – just a third of Israelis aged between 18 and 34 supported a two-state solution in 2018.

Back in the States, the tide has been turning as well. Last week Jason D Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, told Sky News Arabic there was “no reason to use the term two-state solution” as everyone had a “different” opinion on it.

A senior White House Official later clarified the comments in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency saying there “is no point in using a phrase that never achieved peace”.

Earlier in the month, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo also refused to endorse the two-state solution at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the US budget. When repeatedly grilled by Senator Vincent Kaine, he replied: “I would argue that millions of man hours have been spent to try and build out a two-state solution. It hasn’t worked to date. It may work this afternoon, but it hasn’t,” he said.

He also dodged direct questions about whether that meant the two-state idea was dead.

Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel and once one of Obama administration’s Middle East peace envoys, told the Associated Press that the architects of Trump’s deal of the century believe a two-state is “old think”. He said: “Their idea is that the Palestinians can be persuaded to forgo their national aspirations in return for normalcy and prosperity funded by the Arab states.”

No one knows what will be in the US plan. There have been swirling and somewhat mad rumours of colossal land swaps with Jordan and Egypt that have been rejected by the Americans.

But the general shift in rhetoric has meant the Palestinians, who had severed ties with the US over Trump’s decision last year to recognise the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, have already declared the US peace plan to be dead.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, the new Palestinian prime minister, said on Tuesday he rejected the peace plan, adding in despair: "There are no partners in Palestine for Trump. There are no Arab partners for Trump and there are no European partners for Trump.”

Whatever the world’s position is on the two-state solution and the right for the Palestinians to have a nation, ditching the idea would obviously have massive implications for the region. While there is growing indifference to Palestinian independence among its Arab neighbours, the optics of no Palestine at all, and a significantly expanded Israel, will spark tensions abroad.

But more concerning is what would occur internally: what would happen to the estimated 5 million Palestinians living within the Palestinian territories? What would their reaction be?

Even from an Israeli perspective, there is a logic to a two-state solution. The absorption of this population into Israel would impact the demographics of the country and potentially undermine the future of Israel as a Jewish state: a key belief of Netanyahu, his allies and many Israelis, that was enshrined in last year’s controversial and constitutional-like nation-state law.

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The inclusion of 5 million Palestinians into Israel’s new population would, in basic maths terms, change the demographic balance and see Israel’s population split approximately 50-50 between Jewish and non-Jewish Arab communities.

The two outcomes of this, analysts argue, would either see Israel, as a democratic nation, lose its Jewish character or see it become an apartheid-like state in which Israeli Jewish citizens have more rights than their Arab counterparts.

Then there is the headache and heartbreak of Gaza, a 25-mile-long besieged and stunted enclave where half of its 1.9 million population live under the poverty line, over 70 per cent of its youth are unemployed and 97 per cent of the water is undrinkable.

There is no proposal regarding how to deal with the humanitarian crisis there.

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