US Support for a Two-State Solution May Impact the US-Israeli Relationship

The US House of Representatives voted for a resolution expressing support for the two-state solution, which is the longstanding plan for two separate Israeli and Palestinian states existing side-by-side. They also oppose Jerusalem annexing territory in the West Bank.

It was a non-binding resolution and it was a vote targeted at the Trump administration’s reversal of US policy regarding the legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The resolution passed 226-188, and divided according to party, with most Democrats voting in favour, and most Republicans opposed. Even Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a staunch Israeli supporter, said that it is a ‘restatement of the US’s policy of supporting the two-state solution.’

This resolution could not come at a worse time for both US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Both leaders are being threatened with impeachment and if their respective parliaments succeed in ousting them, the two greatest opponents of a two-state solution will be removed from office.

The US has been committed to this solution since Bill Clinton was President. At the beginning of his presidency, Trump stated at a joint press conference with Netanyahu that America no longer supported this policy.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister has changed his mind on this proposal during the last decade. In the 2009 Israeli election, he supported a demilitarised Palestinian state. In the 2015 polls, he declared his own policy ‘null and void’, arguing Israel lacked a partner for peace. Earlier this year, Netanyahu pledged to expand Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank in a bid to attract right-wing and nationalist voters.

Even if both leaders survive their impeachment hearings, Trump will find himself at odds with Netanyahu either way. It will be difficult for the US President to gain the House of Representatives’ support for any conclusion to this conflict other than the two-state solution. If Trump survives impeachment and a Republican-controlled Senate kills the House of Representatives’ resolution, the Trump administration’s Israeli policy is safe.

But if Netanyahu is less fortunate in surviving his own impeachment hearing, Israel could face another poll and his rival Benny Gantz, who leads the Blue and White Party, could lead a new government. A survey by Channel 12 discovered that 46 percent of people think Netanyahu should resign. It also found that the Prime Minister would lose to Gantz in a fresh poll.

If the Blue and White leader did succeed the current Prime Minister, it is unlikely he will support a two-state solution. He refused to endorse it during a meeting with EU ambassadors earlier this year, but he believes a settlement with Palestine must be reached. If both the US and Israel oppose a two-state solution, what other options are available to their respective governments?

The one-state solution would grant equal rights to all in a state that would neither be Jewish nor Palestinian in character, but this could lead to instability and civil war.

The Israeli far-right support preserving Israel’s Jewish character by denying full rights to the Palestinians. However, this would mean Israel would no longer be a democratic state.

Former US Secretary of State John Kerry said at some point Israel will have to choose between being a democratic or a Jewish state. A 2015 survey by the Israel Democratic Institute found that 74 percent of Jewish Israelis believe that decisions central to peace and security should be made by a Jewish majority. That pollster also discovered that Israel should be Jewish, not democratic, first.

This conflict needs a resolution, and fast. The US-Israeli relationship will be tested over the next couple of months thanks to their respective leaders facing impeachment inquiries and the House of Representatives’ support for a two-state solution. But as Nathan Thrall, a Jerusalem-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, told the New York Times, perpetuating the current status quo ‘is the most frightening of possibilities.’