Mon 06 Nov 2023 7:44 am - Jerusalem Time

Has the two-state solution become an impossible task despite Biden's statements?

As the war between Israel and Hamas entered a new phase, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as “long and difficult,” US President Joe Biden called on the Israelis and Arabs to think seriously about the post-war phase.

Reaching an agreement on a two-state solution must become a priority. Biden said, in statements to reporters: “There will be no return to what was before October 7,” referring to the attack launched by the Hamas movement on Israel, which led to the outbreak of war. The White House stated that Biden conveyed this message to Netanyahu in a phone call last week.

Biden added: “When this crisis ends, there must be a vision for what comes after it, and the vision in our estimation is the two-state solution,” according to the Associated Press.

The push for a two-state solution, which means establishing a Palestinian state next to Israel, has been difficult for American presidents and diplomats, and since peace talks, under American auspices, collapsed in 2014 due to disagreement over establishing settlements and releasing Palestinian prisoners, the two-state solution has declined.

Biden rarely touched on the Palestinian state in the first days of his presidential term, and during his visit to the West Bank last year, Biden said that “the ground is not prepared” for the resumption of talks on a permanent peace, although he assured the Palestinians of the American position supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state. .

At the current moment when the conflict between Hamas and Israel is escalating, amid fears that it will turn into a regional conflict, Biden has begun to focus on the two-state solution must not be ignored after the end of the bombing and the ceasefire.

Until recently, the US President's focus was more on normalization between Israel and Arab countries than on reviving peace talks with the Palestinians.

Jake Sullivan, the US National Security Advisor, wrote a lengthy article shortly before October 7 explaining the Biden administration’s foreign policy, but he did not mention any Palestinian state. Later, in a modified version of the article, the US administration’s commitment to the two-state solution was affirmed.

Biden's post-war vision faces several obstacles. The extreme right in Israel believes that a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be ineffective.

The Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank, has weak credibility in the places it governs, and at the same time, the US presidential elections in 2024 will make the US president an unsuitable mediator.

Aaron David Miller, who worked as a Middle East affairs advisor in several Democratic and Republican US administrations, described Biden’s talk about the two-state solution as “ambitious talk.”

He continued: "The probability of this happening is very small. It is an impossible task." The call for a two-state solution was raised during the Jewish Republican Alliance summit in Las Vegas, where Republican presidential candidates criticized Biden's policy towards Israel, and considered it a failure by the Democratic administration to condemn "anti-Semitism" in the United States.

A White House official, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that the White House realizes that Biden’s call for a two-state solution is “ambitious, and perhaps not achievable in the foreseeable future.”

He added, “Biden believes that it is important to spread hope and confirm that his administration supports the two-state solution.”

Dennis Ross, a peace envoy during the Bush and Clinton administrations, said it is necessary to plan for what comes next, although it is not clear when the current conflict will end.

He continued: “It is no longer possible for us to go back to when we were ignoring the Palestinians.”

Biden expressed concern about the deteriorating situation of civilians in Gaza, but his insistence that he will not dictate to the Israelis how to conduct their military operation may affect his credibility as a mediator.

During Biden's meeting with American Muslim leaders in a closed meeting at the White House, attendees confirmed that Biden's silence on the "collective punishment" practiced by Israel against Gaza undermines his relationship with Arab and Muslim Americans, especially with their presence in some states that could influence the course of the elections in 2024.

They expressed their concerns about Biden's statement that he "does not trust" the death toll announced by the Hamas Ministry of Health in Gaza, which said more than 8,000 people had died, most of them women and children.

There is concern among some Democratic Party officials that Biden's handling of the war in Gaza will affect the relationship between Biden and the party on the one hand, and Arab American voters on the other hand, especially since many of them are young and have great sympathy for the Palestinians.


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Has the two-state solution become an impossible task despite Biden's statements?