The simmering conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has been a thorn in every American president’s side since Truman, and there is no reason to assume that will change under the Trump administration.
The president’s recent comments in a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, signaled a potential departure from decades of American policy.
When asked about the future of the two-state solution, in which Palestine would become an independent state alongside Israel, Trump ignored 20 years of policy backed by almost the entire international community and flippantly responded, “So, I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”
This answer trampled on the expectation that the United States would back a two-state solution to the conflict as it has since the 1993 Oslo Accords.
The plan to create an independent state for Palestine is the most reasonable option to solve the conflict because it allows for both an independent Jewish state as well as a mostly Arab state made up of the descendants of families displaced by the creation of Israel in 1948.
Unfortunately, actions undertaken by Netanyahu’s administration have accelerated the pace of Jewish settlements in the territories that would ostensibly make up the Palestinians’ future state.
These settlements present an obstacle to peace by creating enclaves of Israeli citizens and their homes on land that is supposed to make up the hypothetical Palestinian state.
These expanded settlements, combined with the president’s apparent lack of interest in demanding a two-state solution, leads us to another, less savory idea in which one large state governed by a single administrative unit incorporates the territory of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.
This plan, which Trump has just legitimized through either lack of preparation and understanding or an intentional decision to try a new diplomatic approach, would be a disaster for Israel.
In the case of a one-state solution, Israel would have an excruciating choice to make: It could either retain its status as a democracy, or it could keep its identity as a Jewish state, but it could not have both.
Because the territory of Israel and Palestine, taken as a whole, is majority Muslim, a one-state solution would necessarily mean that the state which emerged would no longer be Jewish by design if it adhered to its principles of democracy.
Alternatively, if the hypothetical state remains Jewish, it must by design institute a system in which the will of most its citizens would be blatantly ignored by its administration, as it is unlikely that Muslim residents would happily and willingly vote to have their state be aligned with a religion they do not practice.
The two-state solution has been the basis of peace negotiations for two decades because it is the only reasonable path forward that is equitable and just to both sides.
If we back a single-state solution, we are in effect condemning Israel to sacrifice one of its key identities, sparking an existential crisis Israel does not need and that the United States should not be supporting.
Our responsibility as a moral leader and the central effective power broker in the conflict requires that we stand firm on the expectation of two separate, independent and equal states as the only source of long-lasting peace in the region.
Ian Hutchinson is a Greenfield native pursuing his master’s degree in international affairs in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at email@example.com.