During his press conference with Israel Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump equivocated on the importance of a two-state solution, saying “I am looking at two-state, and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”
His ambivalence is deeply misguided. As countless Israeli security experts have testified, a two-state solution is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people. A “one-state solution” is not a solution at all – it is a recipe for continued unrest and violence.
Recently, at the AIPAC National Convention in DC, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California., read aloud a letter to President Donald Trump signed by 191 members of Congress — including almost every member of the House Democratic caucus — urging him to reaffirm support for the two-state solution.
The letter was sponsored by David Price and Gerrold Connolley calling on President Trump to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to a two-state solution. Just a few years ago, some elected officials might have hesitated to take such an unequivocal stand, but now there is more political space than ever to speak out in favor of strong US leadership towards a two-state solution.
Another encouraging sign of support for a two-state solution and pro-Israel, pro-peace positions in Congress was the unprecedented level of opposition to David Friedman’s confirmation as Ambassador to Israel. Friedman’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the two-state solution, and his deep and long-running personal and financial ties to the settlement movement, run directly counter to decades of bipartisan US policy and to US and Israeli interests. His consistent record of extreme and offensive attacks on senior US officials, on American diplomats and on liberal American Jews make clear that he lacks the temperament and responsibility required for such a sensitive diplomatic assignment.
This vote was an important signifier of the Senate’s commitment to a healthy political discourse around Israel and a two-state solution. Every past ambassador to Israel has been confirmed unanimously. Friedman was deeply contested — all but two Democrats voted against him. They were joined by tens of thousands of American Jews, hundreds of rabbis and major groups like the Reform Movement in making clear that Friedman’s right-wing views are dangerous and totally out of step with our community’s values and decades of US foreign policy.
Moreover, even though Friedman was ultimately confirmed, he was forced to — as Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) put it — recant virtually every one of his lifelong beliefs. Friedman had to attempt to walk back his extreme views — a clear indication that even he recognizes that most of the Senate finds them intolerable.
There are some signs that the Trump administration may not take the hardline approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict embraced by David Friedman. Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s chief legal advisor, with no diplomatic experience and an orthodox Jew, was appointed as his advisor on Israel. Greenblatt has approached the job with seriousness and purpose – recognizing the importance of hearing from a diverse set of regional actors. Even before Friedman has arrived in the region, Greenblatt has had many meetings in recent weeks with Netanyahu in Jerusalem, with Abbas in Ramallah, and with heads of neighboring Arab states. Perhaps something will come of this.
With the Trump administration’s policy still clearly in flux, Congressional pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy in Congress is more important than ever. It’s good to know that our elected officials have both the political space and active desire to make bold statements in support of peace and – are not afraid to challenge one-staters who disparage American Jews.