Editorial

Back to the Only Solution

Recent remarks by Netanyahu and Trump at the UN General Assembly confirm what every fair-minded Israeli knows: There is no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other than that of two states for two peoples

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 26, 2018.
Nicholas Kamm / AFP

“I like the two-state solution. That’s what I think works best,” said U.S. President Donald Trump after his meeting Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly opening. In response, Netanyahu expressed support for a Palestinian state under Israeli security control. “Everyone defines the term ‘state’ differently,” he said, returning essentially to the position expressed in his 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech, in which he referred to what was later was framed as “a state-and-a-half.” “I am willing for the Palestinians to have the authority to rule themselves without the capability to harm us,” he added. “Israel will not relinquish security control west of the Jordan.”

The remarks by Netanyahu and Trump confirm what every fair-minded Israeli knows: There is no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other than that of two states for two peoples. It’s not just the Israelis who know this. Similar remarks were made by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who said the parameters of a resolution to the Palestinian issue are well-known and that there is no time to waste on debates. “What is required is political will to resume negotiations and achieve a settlement in accordance with these parameters,” he said.

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Trump began his presidency highly motivated to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He seeks to think “out of the box” and act differently from his predecessors, who despite their good intentions failed in this mission.

When he first addressed the conflict, he expressed openness to the idea of a single state, which planted hope among the settler right that Trump would give them an international permit to annex the occupied territories. Trump defended Israel in the UN, recognized Jerusalem as its capital and moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem to “remove” the core issue of Jerusalem from the negotiating table. He later declared war against the Palestinians’ refugee status and announced that the United States would stop funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in an effort to similarly “remove” the right of return. These moves also gave the settler right hope that “the Oslo era is over,” as Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett said.

But all the political creativity or wild Trumpian thinking in the world could only lead to the same old and battered conclusion: That there is no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other than the two-state solution. “Israel will have to do something good for the other side,” Trump said, stating the obvious to Netanyahu, adding that he wants to reach a deal between Israel and the Palestinians in the next two years and expected to present a plan in a few months. He also said the Palestinians would agree to return to the negotiating table “100 percent.”

Netanyahu’s remarks indicated that he understood that the status quo policy may be about to end. Now, with his back to the Trumpian wall, it remains to be seen whether there are seeds of good will within Netanyahu and whether his political powers are enough to withstand those Israeli forces resisting a solution to this bloody conflict.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.