WASHINGTON - Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, attacked President Trump and his administration on Friday for not endorsing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and thus harming their own attempts at reaching a peace agreement.
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Earlier this week, the State Department's spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said during a press briefing that the United States is not endorsing any particular solution to the conflict because that could be "biased" towards one side or the other. Her statement signals a clear break from previous American policy, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, which have worked toward a two-state solution.
In an interview with Haaretz on Friday morning, Rep. Connolly said that "the chances for success with their approach, of not stating what's the end-goal, are very remote. There has to be a clear objective here, and it needs to be the two-state solution, which has been the cornerstone of American policy under the last three administrations."
Connolly published a statement on Friday together with Rep. David Price (D-NC) in which the two called the Trump administration's approach "irresponsible and damaging to the prospects for peace and American leadership in the region." They called on the Trump administration "to reaffirm the United States' support for a viable, lasting, and mutually-agreed upon two-state solution and to make this support clear in public and private statements."
Earlier this year, Connolly and Price led a group of 191 members of Congress – including two Republicans – who sent a letter to Trump urging him to adopt the two-state solution as the basis for his diplomatic efforts in the region. The Trump administration has heard from Arab leaders in the region, including the king of Jordan, that the two-state solution is their preferred way of solving the conflict. But after seven months of talks, it hasn't yet presented its own vision for peace, and has not endorsed any particular formula for solving the conflict.
"We didn't hear anything back from the White House after we sent them that letter," Connolly told Haaretz on Friday. "We saw with some alarm the comments this week, while Jared Kushner was in the region, so we felt a need to reiterate the point." Connolly noted that while Trump has not expressed support for the creation of a Palestinian state, he has also not rejected it, stating instead that he doesn't have any preference for a specific solution, and only wants a "deal" that "both sides can accept."
Connolly said that this "amorphous approach" is "fundamentally flawed." He added that if Trump were to endorse the two-state solution, he would find "broad support on both sides of the aisle" in Congress – including among many Republicans. "I think some of them (Republicans) are gun-shy on this issue, they don't want to get out ahead of the president and the secretary of state," he explained, "but that doesn't mean there isn't a broad level of support, below the surface, for making the two-state solution the end-goal of negotiations."
Trump was criticized on Thursday by a number of Jewish-American groups that support the two-state solution for his administration's position on the issue. The left-wing Jewish group J Street accused his administration of showing "dangerous ignorance," while Americans for Peace Now said that "extremists on both sides have been trying to discredit the two-state vision since it was internationally adopted. Now they have a partner in the White House."