In a pre-election interview last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I am going to apply Israeli sovereignty… [to] settlement blocs and isolated settlements. From my perspective, each of those settlement points is Israeli. We have the responsibility [for them] as the government of Israel.”
His comment was erroneously taken to mean that Israel is planning to imminently annex Judea and Samaria, the land the world calls the West Bank. This has created apoplectic shock among the two state solution community. They see Prime Minister Netanyahu’s supposed new policy as the end of any possibility of a two state solution. As advocates of the “two state solution only” theory, they lack the imagination or intellectual fortitude to contemplate other avenues towards an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This angst was on display at a Senate hearing last week with American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Senator Chris Van Halen asked Secretary Pompeo, “Can you preserve Israel as a democratic and Jewish state without a two state solution?” His colleague Senator Dick Durbin said, “I believe the Palestinian’s need a homeland as well. Two sovereign states – not a threat to one another. And this departure that we have made under this Administration, I’m afraid, puts the future of Israel as a Jewish democracy in doubt.” For good measure, the all knowing Durbin added that he hoped Israelis would come to their, or rather Durbin’s senses, “Perhaps the people of Israel in this election today will see a different way for the future.”
Not to be outdone, four members of Congress demonstrated that they too are stuck in a 25 year old failed idea and released the following statement, “We hope that any security measures are implemented within the context of preserving the eventual possibility of a two-state solution. Two states for two peoples, negotiated directly by the two sides, with mutually agreed upon land swaps, is the best option to achieve a Jewish, democratic, secure Israel living side-by-side with a democratic, de-militarized Palestinian state.” Even Jewish organizations followed suit. Although these same organizations have stood against any previous Trump statement, they had no issue writing him saying, “We respectfully request that you affirm long-standing bipartisan consensus that the two-state solution is the essential path to an Israel existing alongside a future state of Palestine in peace and security…”
In 2016, the Republican party took a healthy step away from the two state solution. They didn’t abandon it, but rather included the following statement in their platform, “The U.S. seeks to assist in the establishment of comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, to be negotiated among those living in the region. We oppose any measures intended to impose an agreement or to dictate borders or other terms.” This statement was reiterated by Secretary Pompeo in his responses to the Senators listed above, “I think, ultimately, individuals in the region will sort this out. We want good things for the Palestinian people. We’re going to let Israelis and Palestinians decide.”
The Trump administration has taken a comparatively humble approach to previous administrations and experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead of imposing their will on the Israeli and Palestinian people, they perceive their role as helpers in the quest to end the conflict. Who could possibly have a problem with the Israelis and Palestinians themselves dictating the terms of a solution? Do the above two state solution advocates think the Israelis and Palestinians are incapable of outlying their own terms? Why do they insist on dictating the terms to the Israelis and Palestinians?
In a speech to The Royal Colonial Institute, The Earl of Rosebery said, “We have to consider what countries must be developed either by ourselves or some other nation and we have to remember that it is part of our responsibility and heritage to take care that the world, as far as it can be molded by us, shall receive the Anglo-Saxon and not another character.” The Earl of Rosebery was advocating imperialism. It is this same imperialistic philosophy of superiority that is driving the above quoted Senators, Congresspeople, and American Jewish organizations to tell Israelis and Palestinians how they must solve their own problems.
Lest you say that they aren’t imposing their views on Israelis and Palestinians, rather they’re merely preserving the two state solution in the face of an Israeli unilateral annexation, consider two points. First, Prime Minister Netanyahu never said he was planning on annexation. Second, these Senators, Congresspeople, and American Jews have forced their solutions long before Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments last week.
It is highly arrogant of outsiders to dictate terms of how others should solve their own conflict. The United States should never pressure the Israelis and Palestinians to accept American dictated terms to a solution. It’s been tried before and shown to only exacerbate the conflict. It also isn’t the United State’s place to dictate terms to an ally. America should offer suggestions, offer to facilitate and maybe even offer incentives to both parties to negotiate. Thankfully, the Trump Administration has the necessary imagination to explore other avenues to an end to the conflict, and the humility to act as a facilitator to both parties, not a dictator of terms.