Taken at face value, President Trump’s nonsensical declaration of his IDGAF position on a solution to Israeli apartheid –– “I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.” –– seemed to signal a slight departure from more than 20 years of U.S. support for the politically acceptable two-state solution.
After the 1993 Oslo Accords made the two-state solution popular, Bill Clinton became the first president to endorse it in January 2001. George W. Bush then made it official U.S. policy, where it remained until Trump’s press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday.
Corporate media reacted with deep concern. Both the New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards used the word “dangerous” to describe Trump’s shift away from what the former called “the only just answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“There is no conceivable one-state solution that both parties will like,” the Times asserted. “The likeliest outcome, given the growth rate of the Arab population, is that Israel would be confronted with a miserable choice: to give up being a Jewish state — or to give up being a democratic state by denying full voting rights to Palestinians.”
The Post made the same point: “there is no workable one-state formula under which Israel would remain both a Jewish state and democratic.”
These rebukes to Trump’s statement sound exactly like what John Kerry said in his final speech as Obama’s secretary of state in December. After delivering perhaps the strongest criticism of Israeli settlements by any U.S. official, he affirmed U.S. support for a two-state solution: “The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Explaining his rationale, Kerry said, “here is a fundamental reality: if the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or Democratic, it cannot be both. And it won’t ever really be at peace.”
But rather than an argument for a two-state solution, this point should be viewed as an argument against it. In fact, this oft-repeated argument is the two-state solution’s death knell or, as Ali Abunimah put it, its “eulogy.”
When the New York Times, Washington Post and John Kerry describe what Israel “giving up” being a democracy looks like — “denying full voting rights to Palestinians,” as NYT put it; or, “Most Israelis who favor [one state] imagine an apartheid-like system in which Palestinians would live in areas with local autonomy but without either sovereignty or the same democratic rights as Jews,” in the words of the Post; or, “If there is only one state, you would have millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights, separate legal, education and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives of them of the most basic freedoms. Separate and unequal is what you would have,” as Kerry put it –– what they’re actually describing is the current reality for Palestinians. If Israel were to “give up” being a democratic state after implementation of a one-state solution, it would look no different than it does now.
The conception of a two-state solution, as the Times, Post and Kerry see it, would “cosmetically repackage this injustice as Palestinian ‘independence,’ without fundamentally altering it,” Abunimah wrote. “What [Kerry] offers Palestinians is a demilitarized bantustan with the singular purpose of preserving an all-powerful Israel as a racist state with a permanent Jewish majority.” In other words, a two-state solution would not solve the problem of apartheid. It would also allow the racism inherent to Israel as a Jewish state to persist.
Without doing so explicitly, the argument made by the Times, Post and John Kerry acknowledges that Israel, under a one-state solution, would be morally indefensible as a Jewish state. The only realistic solution, therefore, is one state with equal rights for all.
It’s worth noting that Trump’s lack of explicit support for a two-state solution in the press conference yesterday does not mean the United States has all of a sudden abandoned support for it. In fact, today Trump’s team has already began to clarify or walk back Trump’s comments during the press conference, affirming U.S. support for a two-state solution.
“We absolutely support a two-state solution,” Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said.
The two state-solution is the “best possibility for peace in the region,” said David Friedman, Trump’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Israel.