Israel-Palestine two-state solution: What comes after Donald Trump's ambiguous yet unsettling remarks?
Donald Trump, the newly elected president of the United States of America met Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel; the US-Israel bond was 'unbreakable' claimed Trump.
Donald Trump, the newly-elected President of the United States of America met Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel; the US-Israel bond was "unbreakable", claimed Trump. In classic Trumpian language, with its peculiar linguistic characteristics, he proclaimed: "So, I am looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I am very happy with the one that both parties like," he said, adding: "I can live with either one."
The media took it to mean that Trump was effectively moving away from the two-state solution to the Israel and Palestine 'problem' that the US has been supporting for the past two decades. In fact, Barack Obama, the former president endorsed the two-state vision at a peace conference in Paris on behalf in January, five days before Trump was formally inaugurated as president. And quite bluntly, along with Netanyahu, Trump echoed the sentiments that Palestinians are the ones not ready for peace — "I think the Palestinians have to get rid of some of that hate that they're taught from a very young age."
The Palestine-Israel conflict dates back to the time when Israel was established as a State in 1948. It is the world's only Jewish state. Arab Muslims and Jews have rightful claim to the land dating back to many centuries and the political unrest that we see now stems from the end of the Second World War, where Jews fleeing persecution wished to establish a 'homeland' in the Ottoman/British Empire. Of course, this did not sit well with the Arabs who viewed the land as theirs and viewed the influx of Jews as a colonial move. United Nations intervention in 1947, split the erstwhile Palestine under British Empire into two. Almost immediately after adopting the UN Partition plan, fighting began.
Consequent interventions to give both countries land failed, a civil war ensued in 1967 and further negotiations in 2014 failed leading to a full-fledged war. Israel was originally promised 56 percent of the land, but they ended up occupying 77 percent of the land by the end of 1967. The Palestinians, however were never particularly pleased with incoming Jews, because they believed that the Jews were taking away land from them. According to Middle East Research and Information Project, the conflict between Palestine and Israel between 1947 and 1949 had created over 700,000 refugees — while Palestinians claim that it was a "zionist plan to rid the country of its non-Jewish inhabitants," Israelis claim that refugees fled because Arab leaders (political and military) ordered them to.
The Palestine Question: A two-state solution?
Israel and Palestine both have claims to the land, while most neutral conflict experts think that breaking up the land in two and creating Israel and Palestine would be the best way to resolve the conflict — where both countries will be sovereign and will have the ability to to run their country in the manner they seem fit. However, the one-state solution would merge all the territories under one, effectively ending the run of Israel as a nation/state, ending the existence of a Jewish state.
According to Yehouda Shehnav in Beyond The Two-State Solution, the one-state policy "does not consider the fact that most of the population of the area concerned is both religious and nationalist," and the two-state solution creates random borders without giving any weight to religious community or national sentiment.
The US has always been hugely supportive of Israel. In 1962, to provide a balance to the power division in the Middle East, US sold missiles to Israel. France paused supplies to the Jewish state, but US increased its sales. However, the US' affection for Israel didn't start in the early formation of the state. During the 1956 Suez Crisis, US was particularly hostile towards Israel. But perhaps, Israels positioning as a relatively stable nation-state, especially as a democracy in the turbulent Middle East was seen as an important key in unravelling the Soviet control over the Middle East during the Cold War. But there are many answers to why United States of America, for most part a powerful country has vested its interests in Israel. According to Michael Eisenstadt and David Pollock in Friends With Benefits: Why the US-Israeli Alliance Is Good for America, Israel is important for America because it is a "counterweight against radical forces in the Middle East, including political Islam and violent extremism." The authors also claim that Israel is pertinent in US foreign relations, because of the information the two countries share on terrorism, nuclear proliferation and impact of Middle Eastern politics.
Public support for Israel in America is high too, according to a Gallup poll on American sympathies, it was found that Americans "lean heavily towards Israelis," — 64 percent Americans support Israelis over 12 percent Americans who support Palestinians. These numbers are also confirmed by Michael J Koplow in his paper, Value Judgment: Why Do Americans Support Israel? where he finds that it is the high level of public affinity for Israel that drives the policy and not diplomatic or geo-political strategy. Walter Russell Mean writes in Real Clear Politics: "In the United States, a pro-Israel foreign policy does not represent the triumph of a small lobby over the public will. It represents the power of public opinion to shape foreign policy in the face of concerns by foreign policy professionals." The support seems to be steadily growing as US agreed to providing a military aid package worth $38 billion over the next 10 years for Israel in September 2016.
In light of this level of American support, Trump's plans to withdraw from a 'commitment' (howsoever vague) to see through the two-state plan is unclear, especially when he qualifies it with statements like: "I am very happy with the one that both parties like... I can live with either one." But because the US actively supports Israel, Palestinian interests — a peoples' interest, with an equal right to the land, are often ignored or not taken into account.
If it's not a two-state solution, what solution then takes into account the consequences for Palestinians in relations to Jews and how will that solution answer the historical inequities and inequalities?
For now, Palestinian representatives are unhappy with the inference of Trump's vague words on backing away from the two-state solution: Husam Zomlot, strategic affairs adviser to Palestinian Authority told Reuters that the "two-state solution is not something we just came up with. It is an international consensus and decision after decades of Israel's rejection of the one-state democratic formula."
Antonio Guterres, UN Chief said: "There is no alternative solution for the situation between the Palestinians and Israelis, other than the solution of establishing two states and we should do all that can be done to maintain this." Despite criticism, the two-state solution has endured political upheavals and has managed to come across as the most reasonable solution — time and again, the United Nations, European Union, Arab League, Russia and US have stated their support for the two-state solution. But Trump's vague utterances have jolted the world into rethinking solutions for the Israel-Palestine problem.
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