Commentators brand the White House policy shift a betrayal not by Washington, but by Palestinian leaders themselves
Arab and Palestinian leaders were busy on Thursday angrily maintaining that the two-state solution is the only feasible one for the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The Arab League and Egypt both reasserted that a two-state solution, first proposed as early as 1937 but firstly gaining traction internationally in the 1970s, is the only workable solution.
Their comments came after US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would be happy with a one-state solution, breaking with decades of US tradition of backing the establishment of separate Israeli and Palestinian states.
The chief negotiator for the Palestinians, Saeb Erekat, was similarly forthright, accusing Israel of trying to “bury” the two-state solution.
The view among columnists in the region on Thursday, though, suggested a markedly different view: that the two-state solution has to all intents and purposes been dead and buried for years, and that the blame lies at the door of the Palestinian leadership.
Mahir Abu Tir, a columnist with Jordan’s al-Dustur newspaper, wrote:
“We didn’t need a leak from an unnamed US official to tell us that the administration in Washington does not want to adopt the two-state solution – the possibility of that solution ended years ago.
'We didn’t need a leak from an unnamed US official to tell us that the administration in Washington does not want to adopt the two-state solution'
“The two-state solution was only ever a fantasy, one that was sold to the Palestinians and Arabs in the service of three goals: pushing the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a legitimate occupying state; bringing together all the Palestinian factions so that they can be controlled by the Israeli occupation; and exploiting the name of the peace process to allow the plans for [Israeli] building in the West Bank and Jerusalem to be completed.”
Though Washington is wavering on its support for a two-state solution, Abu Tir argued, it must remain responsible for whatever comes afterwards. As Israel’s staunchest international ally, he wrote, it has already stood by Tel Aviv as it “Hebraicised Jerusalem, stole water, pushed Palestinians into poverty and built settlements”.
'Drowning in a stagnant swamp'
Fayez Abu Shamala, writing in Felesteen Online, branded the White House’s vague disavowal of the two-state solution a historic political failure, not of Washington, but of the Palestinian leadership – and, according to Abu Shamala, it’s a failure that could have dangerous consequences:
“It is a matter of shame that the Palestinians are placing the blame for their failure at the foot of the White House. Washington has now shown its true face – but the greatest dishonour is reserved for the Palestinian leadership, which has surrendered the fate of the Palestinian people and their sacred land to the knives of the White House.
“Until the Palestinian leadership admits its failure, the Palestinian people will continue to drown in a stagnant swamp. It’s one that threatens to explode in the face of the Israelis."
A Palestinian woman watches an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint, where the army has sprayed a Star of David (AFP)
Israeli right-wingers hail policy shift
In Israel, the White House’s policy about-turn was greeted with delight by the right-wing politicians who make up the strongest constituent of the ruling coalition.
“The Palestinian flag has been lowered and replaced by the Israeli flag,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett wrote on Facebook.
“A new era. New ideas. No need for a third Palestinian state beyond Jordan and Gaza.”
'That is precisely the attitude Netanyahu wanted to see from the president - someone who doesn't have the foggiest clue what he is talking about'
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of Bennett’s Jewish Home party, claimed credit for the turnaround, saying “what we did…definitely helped change the picture,” referring to lobbying ahead of the visit.
Responding to Trump’s comment that he could “live with” either a one- or two-state solution, Israeli political commentator Sima Kadmon wrote in Ynet News:
“Netanyahu got exactly what he wanted from the American president. One state, two states - what difference does it make? That is precisely the attitude Netanyahu wanted to see from the president - someone who doesn't have the foggiest clue what he is talking about.”
US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands at Trump Tower in New York (AFP)
Dangerous days for the PA?
Amira Hass, writing in left-wing daily Haaretz, questioned what difference the US policy shift will have for a Palestinian leadership that has known from the start that the two-state solution was little more than a “bluff”.
“The Palestinian could understand even before Yitzhak Rabin’s murder [in 1995] that Israel was bluffing. That it may be saying 'two states' but building enclaves. The PLO stuck to the negotiation policy in the hope that the West would pressure Israel, that there would be positive political changes in Israel and that the Arab states would act.
"But there’s another reason, too. The Palestinian leadership converted the bureaucracy of a national liberation organisation into a ruling bureaucracy, complete with self-preservation and clinging on to one’s standing."
The main consequence of the shift, Hass argued, will not be an end to the possibility of a two-state solution or a lasting peace deal of any kind, but to the likelihood of the Palestinian Authority maintaining any credibility in the eyes of Palestinians.
“The different music now coming from the White House [could] weaken the Palestinian leadership’s status even further in the Palestinians’ eyes, and therefore, [could mean] its existence is in danger.”