President Donald Trump’s stunning comment that he “can live with” a one-state solution to the ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis sent shockwaves through the U.S. and the Middle East on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m looking at two-state and one-state,” Trump said during a joint press conference at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressing an apparent shift away from America’s long-term commitment to supporting a two-state solution.
“I can live with either one,” he said, adding that “if Israel and the Palestinians are happy ― I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
Under Republican and Democratic leadership, the U.S. government has for decades held the position that peace between Israelis and Palestinians should come through establishing two states.
Netanyahu has remained largely noncommittal on the issue of Palestinian statehood, which he first expressed conditional support for in 2009. Shortly before Netanyahu’s visit to the U.S., however, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said “all members of the security cabinet, and foremost the prime minister, oppose a Palestinian state.”
In recent weeks, Netanyahu has approved the construction of thousands of settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians say undermine any commitment to Palestinian statehood. The White House did not condemn the move.
Israeli Right Triumphant
Right-wing Israeli officials, who have pushed for annexing the West Bank, celebrated Trump’s comments on Wednesday.
“I praise the fact that for the first time in 25 years the Americans want to think again and respect Israeli interests, as decided by the people of Israel,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, as reported by The Times of Israel. Trump’s support “brings tidings of a new era and the opening of the idea of a regional solution,” she added.
Naftali Bennett, leader of the religious Jewish Home party, also celebrated “a new era.”
“After 24 years, the Palestinian flag is lowered and the Israeli flag is put in its place,” he wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday afternoon. “Big day for Israelis & reasonable Arabs,” he later tweeted.
“This is the most important day for those who love the country of Israel,” tweeted Likud Minister Ofir Akunis.
On the left, however, politicians who have been critical of Israel’s prolonged peace efforts believe Trump’s comments have caused great disappointment.
Israeli lawmaker Stav Shaffir of the Zionist Union told right-wing politicians to “restrain their cries of joy,” according to The Jerusalem Post. “Underneath the flattery of Netanyahu, there is no plan for maintaining security,” she warned.
“The extreme right won tonight and the State of Israel lost,” said Zionist Union Knesset member Erel Margalit. “Netanyahu is leading us to a binational state and fleeing the two-state solution that is Israel’s interest. We are witnessing Netanyahu fleeing from his investigations, and we will all pay the price.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials were quick to denounce the Trump administration’s apparent change in stance.
Responding to reports late on Tuesday that Trump would abandon a firm commitment to a two-state solution, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned the move would present a “very dangerous shift” in U.S. policy.
Palestinian representatives have also warned that a two-state solution is the only alternative to an apartheid system.
America’s departure from this approach “would be destroying the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility abroad,” said Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi, according to Reuters.
“If U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to create alternative realities, then he should spell out what the options are ― a one-state solution would require equal rights and citizenship for all, unless he is advocating for an apartheid state,” she added. “However, a situation of perpetual occupation would only generate greater extremism and violence within the region and beyond.”
Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and former PLO spokesperson Diana Buttu echoed those concerns on Twitter, shortly after Trump and Netanyahu’s press conference ended.
“Israel wants apartheid. Palestinians want freedom and equality,” she wrote. “Demanding that Palestinians negotiate with Israel is like insisting that a victim negotiate the end of abuse with abuser.”