Even as the nation roiled in the wake of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s abrupt resignation this week, we were pleased to see the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel re-establish warm personal relations, something painfully absent during the Obama years.
But being BFFs alone is no guarantee of a positive outcome.
As described in our story today, President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in the White House to show off their mutual admiration and, ostensibly, to hit the reset button on a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The reset began earlier in the week with the United States apparently backing away from its former bedrock demand of a two-state solution, a move that sent shock waves around the world. In a Feb. 15 joint press conference from the East Room, the president said, “I’m looking at two states and one state. I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.”
For his part, Netanyahu dismissed the two-state solution as “a label.” Repeating his prerequisites for peace — an end to Palestinian incitement, Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and guarantees of Israeli security control in the Jordan River Valley — he said, “If anyone believes that I as prime minister would blindly walk into a Palestinian terrorist state that wants the destruction of my country, they are sadly mistaken.”
We fully agree that Israel’s security is paramount, and that vicious incitement rampant in Palestinian society impedes progress toward peace. But it is a mistake to abandon so blithely the two-state solution as a framework for peace.
For all of the frustration both sides have endured over decades of wrangling, the two-state solution has remained the prime objective, mostly because the alternatives are untenable. A one-state solution, by which Israel annexes the West Bank, would mean either that 2.8 million Palestinian Arabs live as second-class citizens with restricted rights and no franchise, or, as new citizens of Israel with voting rights, they soon become the majority population, thereby undermining Israel’s Jewish character. No supporter of Israel could want either option.
President Trump has always bragged about his negotiating skills. Now he says he wants to apply that talent to the thorniest geopolitical problem of the last 50 years. We certainly wish him luck in achieving a peace deal agreeable to both Israelis and Palestinians; it’s what we all yearn for.