- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump appeared to scuttle long-standing U.S. support for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.
If “Bibi” and the Israelis and the Palestinians are all happy, “I am looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like… I can live with either one,” Trump said.
Abandoning the two-state solution would be a marked departure from bipartisan U.S. foreign policy of the past 15 years. The United States has explicitly supported the establishment of a two state solution since June of 2002, as former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro noted on Twitter.
Ahead of the meeting, Husam Zolot, strategic affairs advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Reuters, “The two-state solution is not something we just came up with. It is an international consensus and decision after decades of Israel’s rejection of the one-state democratic formula.”
Trump’s utterances prompted plenty of concern about the future of the Middle East peace process and Israel’s own future.
“The extreme right won tonight. The state of Israel has lost,” tweeted Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit.
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and once said to be in the running for a Trump State Department job, tweeted, “Maybe Pres Trump can live with a 1 state ‘solution’ but Israel could not if it wanted to remain democratic, Jewish, secure & prosperous.”
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres reiterated through the U.N. spokesperson’s Twitter account that “there is no plan B to a 2-state solution.”
Yousef Munayyer of the the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights tweeted, “The question is no longer one state or two. It is clearly one state. Question now is what kind of one state: apartheid or equality.”
Trump may have spoken flippantly at the press conference, not intending to signal a sharp break with U.S. policy. But the statement was not inconsistent with his campaign, and administration officials told Reuters Tuesday that Trump could support a one-state solution, suggesting that the president did not improvise on Wednesday.
Netanyahu seemed nonplussed, and dismissed the semantics as a matter of “labels.” The prime minister said he is concerned more with substance: specifically, the substance of Palestinians recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and Israel maintaining security control over territory west of the Jordan River.
In response to Trump’s request to “hold off on settlements for a while” in pursuit of a peace deal, Netanyahu simply said, “We’ll try,” adding, “That’s the art of the deal.”
Later in the press conference, an Israeli journalist asked about the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States since Trump’s election, and what the president would say to those who believe his administration is “playing with xenophobia and maybe racist tones.”
In response, Trump noted that he won 306 electoral college votes and has a Jewish daughter, a Jewish son-in-law, and three Jewish grandchildren.
“We are going to do everything in our power to stop long simmering racism and every other thing that’s going on,” he said. “I think one of the reasons I got elected is because we have a very, very divided nation,” before concluding, “You’re going to see a lot of love.”
Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images