The notion that Israelis and Palestinians can share the Holy Land living in separate, independent nations has been a seductive goal for eight decades. The vision drove on-and-off peace talks for more than 20 years. The latest round foundered in 2014, giving way to a growing sentiment that the two-state solution was dead. On Jan. 28, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his plan for peace, including a possible “transition” to two states, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rejected it even before it was released. If not two states, then what? An enlarged Jewish state in which Palestinians are less than equal? One with Arabs and Jews living together in a state that is no longer Jewish? Anyone have a better idea?
A fact sheet distributed by the White House indicated that under Trump’s plan, Israel wouldn’t have to surrender Jewish settlements in the West Bank, land Palestinians hope to make part of a future state. The proposal rejected a key Palestinian demand, that Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to land they fled or were expelled from in fighting surrounding Israel’s 1948 establishment. It offered the prospect of limited statehood only if Palestinians met conditions on fighting corruption and militancy. Trump already had alienated the Palestinians, who’d cut off high-level talks with the U.S., by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, even as Palestinians claim the city’s eastern sector for their future capital, and by reversing the U.S. position on settlements, saying they did not violate international law. About 130 government-approved settlements and 100 unofficial ones are home to some 400,000 Israelis in the West Bank, where an estimated 2.6 million Palestinians live. Responding to Trump’s plan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it may take the Palestinians “a very long time” to get an independent state. In the past, he’s said such a state “would endanger” Israel’s existence.