Palestinians warned United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday against walking out on a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel after a White House official said peace did not necessarily have to involve Palestinian statehood.
On Tuesday, a senior White House official said the United States would no longer seek to dictate the terms of any eventual peace settlement by insisting on a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but would support whatever the two sides agree to together.
The comments came on the eve of White House talks between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as a senior White House official said the decision to shape future peace lies in the hands of Palestinians and Israelis themselves.
“A two-state solution that doesn’t bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
“Peace is the goal, whether that comes in the form of a two-state solution if that’s what the parties want, or something else if that’s what the parties want.”
A U.S. retreat from the internationally backed goal of a future two-state solution alarms Palestinians, who seek a state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and in the Gaza Strip.
“If the Trump Administration rejects this policy it would be destroying the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility abroad,” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in response to the U.S. official’s remarks.
“Accommodating the most extreme and irresponsible elements in Israel and in the White House is no way to make responsible foreign policy,” she said in a statement.
Commenting on the White House official’s remarks, Husam Zomlot, strategic affairs adviser to Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas, noted that Palestinian statehood has long been at the heart of international peace efforts.
“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,” Zomlot told Reuters in Jerusalem by telephone from the West Bank city of Ramallah.
As for the Palestinian Hamas movement, the announcement was “confirmation that the so-called peace process is an illusion.”
Unlike the PLO, Hamas does not recognize Israel, and the movement again called on the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank to drop its openness to negotiations.
On his departure for Washington on Monday, Netanyahu evaded a question on whether he still backed a two-state
solution, saying he would make his position clear in the U.S. capital.
But he has spoken of a “state minus,” suggesting he could offer the Palestinians deep-seated autonomy – they already exercise limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim deals- and the trappings of statehood without full sovereignty.