The US President, Donald Trump, welcomed Israeli Prime Minister into the White House on Wednesday and the two reminisced about the long relationship between their two families. The US President took the opportunity to announce, in a single sentence, a major shift in US policy in the region.
It’s unclear whether the U.S. President knew that his statement marked a major shift in policy, as his three weeks in the Presidency have been marked by several diplomatic gaffes in which the new President revealed his ignorance both of U.S. foreign policy and of politics and geography in general.
In either case, President Trump’s announcement contradicted decades of U.S. policy toward Israel and Palestine. While former President Bill Clinton was the first to officially articulate the position that the U.S. supported two states of Israel and Palestine living side-by-side on the 1967 borders, a similar policy was supported by Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr.
But since the time that the two-state policy was made official in 1993 with the Oslo Accords, the Israeli government has officially and unofficially expanded its colonial settlements on illegally-seized Palestinian land in the West Bank. Palestinians have argued that these actions by Israel have made peace negotiations virtually impossible.
In Wednesday’s meeting, the two world leaders reminisced about their families’ long friendship, and Netanyahu noted that he had known Trump’s son-in-law and newly-appointed advisor on Middle East Affairs, since he was a child.
While such nepotism has not been unheard of in U.S. politics, it is not often so blatantly voiced in diplomatic sessions.
In response to the meeting between Netanyahu and Trump, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the only way a ‘one state’ solution would be possible is if Palestinians were to have equal, democratic rights in such a state.
Trump did not rule out a single state on the historic land of Palestine, saying, “I am looking at two states or one state, and I like the one that both parties like.”
For his part, Netanyahu re-stated his position that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a ‘Jewish state’, essentially denying their own identity and their own historic claim on their land, in order for ‘peace’ to be possible.
Commentator Ali Abunimah wrote following the meeting, “Conventional opinion views any Trump abandonment of the two-state solution as capitulation to Israel’s far right wing that is pressuring Netanyahu from within his coalition to annex the West Bank outright. The annexationists may hope that the Palestinians could eventually be pushed out, or forced to live under some form of Jordanian jurisdiction – the so-called Jordanian option. That may even be the motivation of the anti-Palestinian extremists in the Trump administration, but the analysis fails to take into account the growing support amongst Palestinians for a democratic one-state solution. Trump has at least acknowledged that Palestinians must agree to the terms of any agreement. And Palestinians will not submit voluntarily to Netanyahu’s conditions.”
Abunimah added, “[T]he end of the two-state delusion brings into focus the reality that the price of a “Jewish state” is the perpetual violation, frequently in horrific ways, of the rights of millions of Palestinians. The way out now cannot be clearer: rights for everyone in a unified country.”