Secretary of State Michael Pompeo's statement concerning Israeli settlements in the West Bank is a major reversal of the U.S. longstanding policy and legal opinion that deemed settlements inconsistent with international law. The two-state solution was based on a set of trade-offs: Palestine reclaiming its land in exchange for Israeli security and peace, and the Palestinians accepting a formula of no right of return to Israel in exchange for Jerusalem as their capital.
This latest move by the Trump Administration buries for now the idea of two states living side by side, and instead leaves a one state solution as the only alternative, one in which the Arabs would comprise roughly 50 percent of Israel's population, an unfortunate alternative for both countries. The first blow to a two-state solution was when President Trump declared Jerusalem as the legitimate capital of Israel, without also stating the same for the Palestinians. The Trump Administration then stated that the only right of return for Palestinians should be for those who originally left Israel more than 70 years ago, not their offspring, totally ignoring international rights of return and property ownership for family members. Now comes the final blow, stating that Israel has the right to take land away from Palestine in the West Bank to accommodate expansion of its own citizenry.
The Clinton Parameters of 2000 proposed 96 percent of the West Bank as the basis for a Palestinian state, leaving 80 percent of the settlers in place along a new Palestinian border, but making up for four percent in the new land, including a land bridge connecting the West Bank and Gaza. East Jerusalem was proposed as a capital for Palestine. In exchange Israel was guaranteed certain security assurances and the end of no right of return by Palestinians to Israel, but provided compensation for their land and guaranteed movement to the new Palestine or third countries. This was a fair solution in which both parties gave something. But now that the U.S. has declared Jerusalem as Israel's capital, settlements in the West Bank as legal, and the U.S. statements on limiting rights of return, there is little reason for either side to negotiate a peaceful and final agreement of a two-state solution.
Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel is a former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco and currently President of the American Task Force for Lebanon. He has an extensive background in international affairs, having convened multilateral policy forums involving national security, environmental, and trade and energy issues.