Palestinians express mixed reactions to Trump’s shift from two-state solution

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. (Photo: AFP)

Donald Trump became the first US President in recent years to suggest a shift in US foreign policy concerning the two-state solution during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said. “I can live with either one.”

Following the press conference, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s office issued a statement that affirmed Abbas’s “readiness to deal positively with the Trump administration to make peace,” but also insisted that future negotiations continue to follow the internationally-backed plan for the two-state solution.

“The Palestinian presidency stressed its commitment to the two-state solution and to the international law and international legitimacy in the way that secures ending the Israeli occupation and establish the Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital,” the statement said.

In a poll released on Thursday, the Palestinian Center for Policy & Survey Research found that 55 percent of Israelis and 44 percent of Palestinians support the two-state solution. Both groups showed a decline in their support since June, when 59 percent of Israelis and 51 percent of Palestinians reported supporting the solution. Yet, far more people prefer the two-state solution relative to a one-state.

Only 24 percent of Israelis and just over one-third of Palestinians polled supported a one-state solution.

Support for the two-state solution rose among Palestinians who described themselves as “not religious,” of which 64 percent of people supported the two-state solution, where 47 percent of those who were “somewhat religious” and 35 percent of religious respondents said they supported the two-state solution.

Among Israeli Jews, just under one-fifth of right wingers support two-states, but nearly 90 percent of Israelis who described themselves as left-wing support it.

Saeb Erekat, head of the Palestinian Liberation Office’s Negotiations Affairs Department, on Thursday said that the office would be willing to move away from the two-state solution, since the Palestinian’s support for the two-state solution began as a “Palestinian adoption of an international formula.”

However, Erekat stressed that the only way Palestinians could accept sharing one state was if Israel was willing to give up the notion of a Jewish state.

“Contrary to Netanyahu’s plan of one state and two systems — apartheid — the only alternative to two sovereign and democratic states on the 1967 border is one single secular and democratic state with equal rights for everyone, Christians, Muslims, and Jews, on all of historic Palestine,” he said.

Reuven Rivlin, the President of Israel, said on Monday during a conference that he supports the full annexation of the occupied West Bank, “applying sovereignty” to both territories, but only if the state were to give “full citizenship to all those living there.”

“There is no [separate] law for Israelis and for non-Israelis,” he said, adding that “it must be clear, if we extend sovereignty, the law must apply equally to all.”

The International Community

While more political leaders are becoming open to a potential shift in negotiations, the international community has expressed a strong commitment to the two-state solution.

In a press release summarizing his briefing to the Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East on Thursday, Nickolay Mladenov, the Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process, reiterated the international community’s view that two-states are the only option for the region.

“The two-state solution remains the only way to achieve the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples,” the Special Coordinator said, before calling again for the Israeli government to halt settlement expansions.

Following Trump and Netanyahu’s joint conference, Neoklis Sylikiotis, chairman of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Palestine reiterated the parliament’s support for the two-state solution with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the 1967 borders, “living in peace alongside Israel.”

“The EU must exert pressure on Israel in order to put an end to its settlement, to lift the occupation and commit to a roadmap for peace and two-state solution,” Sylikiotis said. “We want peace for the Palestinian people, the Israeli people, and all the people of the Middle East”.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres “urged the international community to do everything it could to bring about a two-state solution.” According to the report, Guterres said there was no other option for resolving the conflict.