In February, U.S. President Donald Trump famously announced he could “live with” either a one- or two-state solution, which many analysts declared meant the demise of the two-state outcome. Yet after six months of talks, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s recent diplomatic trip to the region, U.S. officials have not even publicly hinted at an alternative to a two-state end state. In the face of a U.S. president’s rejection, the idea of two states has again proven its resilience.
This should not come as a surprise. Ever since it was embraced by the parties, the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been said to be “stillborn,” “terminally ill,” and plain old “dead.” The policy was supposed to meet its demise in 1995, 2001, 2007, and 2016. And yet the policy lives. The idea is that former Mandatory Palestine should consist of two self-governed entities, one Jewish and one Arab. The United Nations’ 1947 partition plan attempted but failed to enact this vision because Palestinians and Arab states rejected it, and war soon broke out between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Ever since, the United States has been involved in negotiating peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians. This engagement has included Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s post-1973 disengagement negotiations, President Jimmy Carter’s 1978 brokering of an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty that nearly included Palestinians at Camp David, and near-continuous U.S. involvement in Israeli-Palestinian talks since the early 1990s.
Disagreement and distrust between the parties have complicated the creation of a Palestinian state. Negotiations have aimed for a deal that protects Israel’s security while ensuring Palestinian sovereignty, deals with Jewish settlements to make the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state possible, and shares Jerusalem between the two states, among other objectives. But realizing an agreement has been difficult. Finding leaders with the public backing, courage, and mutual respect to put their names on such a deal has been harder still. Why then, despite 20 years of inconclusive
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