Nabil Amr
Palestinian writer and politician

The US and the Erosion of the Two-State Solution

The veto... is a consistent feature of US policy towards Palestine. The US explained its position by asserting that the United Nations is not the right place to address this issue. In fact, the US claims that raising this matter at the UN is the main obstacle to resolving the issue, as there is no alternative to direct negotiations between the parties to the conflict.
Since the Madrid peace process, which was taken to Washington and then Oslo, the Palestinian question has been in limbo. There has not been a solution; instead, we saw a war that goes beyond the confines of Palestine-Israel, and there are now real fears that it could expand to become a regional war. Here we are now, standing at the abyss, and there is nothing to reassure us that the current formula, which is grounded in the premise that neither Iran nor the US wants such a war, will hold.
Gaza remains the main flashpoint, and its current regional extension, due to the shared border, is the northern front. All that it would take for us to find ourselves in the midst of a regional war are surprises on the battlefield and an Israeli venture to impose one as it continues to draw the US into the conflict.
After the consulate attack, and the retaliation and counter-retaliation drills, it was leaked that the US, which is keen on keeping the military developments in the region under control and minimizing their scope to the greatest extent possible, had traded limiting the scope of Israel’s retaliation to the missile and drone “spectacle” for approval of the Israeli military campaign on Rafah.
Despite the US denying that such a deal had been made, developments on the ground do not demonstrate the contrary. The attack on Rafah is being discussed by the Israelis and Americans. They are not discussing whether the invasion should take place, but how to account for humanitarian considerations. These considerations can be circumvented by programming military operations and tying them to the provision of relatively safe zones for civilians. That is not very different from the formula of trading a limited response to Iran for Rafah.
Israel has far more freedom in operations in the Gaza Strip than it does on Iranian territory. Since the beginning of the war, Israel has seemed completely unrestrained in Gaza, as it has been shielded by the laxity of the US, which nominally expresses reservations about its actions on the ground while fully backing its goals.
There is nothing new here. The Gaza war has been on this trajectory since it began. However, what is new is that the US has walked back on framing the two-state solution as the sole only way to avoid inflaming the region. If we compare US statements regarding this particular issue with its current rhetoric, we find a clear difference, not only in terminology but also in content and the direction being taken.
In their previous statements about the aftermath of the conflict, the Americans had gone as far as saying that they were looking for a way to recognize the Palestinian state. They said that they had consulted with numerous parties on this matter and discussed the need to reform the Palestinian Authority as a first step to solving the post-war quagmire. The plan would involve handing over Gaza to an "improved" PA and making serious efforts that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state. President Biden even said that this would happen within the framework of a “regional solution.”
The shift in rhetoric and behavior became clear after Israel mobilized all of its forces to prevent the US position from evolving, even reverting back to older premises. In this context, the Knesset voted, with an overwhelming majority, to reject the “imposition” of a Palestinian state and to insist that not only the question of establishment but also characteristics, should be negotiated rather than imposed.
The effectiveness of the "brakes" Israel put on the US initiative is obvious. Not only did the US persistently and keenly seek to prevent the UN Security Council from passing a vote on this matter, the US diplomatic top brass’s explanation of its "veto" also fully aligns with the Israeli position: there is only one path to resolving the Palestinian question, Israel, with a thin added veneer of negotiations that Israel categorically rejects.
With the Iranian-Israeli skirmishes, the involvement of the US and NATO in those skirmishes, the persistence of the war on Gaza, the American-Israeli understandings regarding Rafah, and Israel's ongoing operations on the northern front that abide by long-standing rules, we have seen a rapid erosion of the US position on the two-state solution that had been laid out as part of the plan for "the day after.”
The bottom line is that US policy towards Palestine has reverted back to where it had been in the past. The most dangerous aspect of this stance is that the solution has been placed in the hands of Israel. Recently, President Biden settled the matter by saying that now is not the time to recognize the Palestinian state. It reminds us of his statement in Bethlehem. “The Palestinians have the right to a state, but that will not be achieved, in the long term or longer term.” That means that the matter will continue to be discussed but no efforts will be made to bring it about!