President Donald Trump declined to express a commitment to the two-state solution during a meeting with his Israeli counterpart on Wednesday. TRT World spoke to Andrew Kadi, a Palestinian-American rights activist, to find out what this really means.
President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Wednesday in Washington, holding a joint press conference where the American president expressed little loyalty to the "two-state solution", long a central feature of American diplomacy between Israelis and Palestinians.
"I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like," he said. "I can live with either one."
Andrew Kadi, a Palestinian American and member of the steering committee for the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USPCR), spoke with TRT World's Wilson Dizard in an interview to explain how he doesn't think Trump departing from the two-state solution will make life any easier for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But he does believe that the "two-state solution framework" has not led the region to peace, and its collapse could reveal facts on the ground.
What does giving up on the two state solution mean?
Andrew Kadi: The two-state solution hasn't been on the table in years. The realities on the ground dictate that there is no two-state solution. I think it's been used as sort of a carrot for Palestinian leadership, but I think it's also been used as a facade for the expansion of settlements and continued policies of discrimination, and the displacement and dispossession of Palestinians.
Diplomats have been working their entire careers with the two-state solution in mind. What would you tell them?
AK: What I would say to them is that the discourse around a two-state solution is detached from the reality on the ground. The reality is that the settler population is well beyond half a million. When you travel through the occupied West Bank, what you see are primarily signs for different settlements, and not so much Palestinian towns, villages or cities. The reality on the ground is that Israel controls well beyond 80 percent of the West Bank, and you could argue somewhere around 90 percent, given that the Palestinian Authority is limited to less than 10 percent of the West Bank. The reality on the ground dictates that there never was any progress to two-states since the Oslo process. That is evident in the doubling of settlements between 1993 and 2003, the detention of Palestinians, raids by soldiers on the ground, indicating control. It doesn't take much more than a trip on the ground. The realities of East Jerusalem are clearly indicative that the idea of East Jerusalem as a capital of a Palestinian state is something Israel has never taken seriously, and that's assuming they were taking seriously the idea of two states. I think that what it takes is being on the ground, seeing the depth of the resources and the military domination over the Palestinians for someone to understand that there is no two-state solution.
What can Palestinians expect from a Trump administration?
AK: It's hard to tell at this point, but clearly there's some unpredictability. But what's predictable and obvious is that there is an alignment of xenophobic, Islamophobic bigotry, and support for fake ideas, false security through things like walls and the expulsion of human beings, including many people who are indigenous. You see an alignment of disregard for indigenous people between the two administrations (Netanyahu and Trump), looking at Trump's recent support and investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Keystone. What it means for Palestinians is the reality of what the Israeli regime has been doing will be laid bare much more honestly. I think that this press conference was indicative of that. It was obvious that from Trump's perspective there was no pressure for Netanyahu to commit to anything. Although in the past Netanyahu has expressed his support for the two-state solution, the reality is that he did not support it in any way.
The sooner that there is a collapse of the two-state framework, the faster we get to the reality on the ground. It's going to be a very difficult period for Palestinians. I don't think apartheid gets better from where we are. The system that Israel has put in place doesn't improve. I don't expect things will get better, to be honest, until we get to a point where the realities on the ground are laid bare for people in the US to see.
Does Trump understand what's going on?
AK: I don't think Trump understands the situation. I think Trump is an anti-Semite. And I say that based off of his speech to the Republican Jewish Committee, about how Jews are good with money, or good merchants. And he made another remark, at least two remarks that were anti-Semitic.
What does it mean that he's anti-Semitic and that he doesn't understand?
AK: This isn't the first time that Israel would align itself with anti-Semitic ideas, first off. Netanyahu made remarks in France saying that the only home in the world for Jews is Israel, insinuating that French Jews can't live with fellow Frenchmen. This is an alignment of Trump and [chief White House adviser Steve] Bannon's ethno-nationalist ideas, with the ideas of the Israeli state. This is where white supremacy aligns with Zionism, which is also white supremacy.
What does this alignment mean for Palestinians?
AK: When I said things will get worse, Israeli policies can go forward unbound by any sort of check but I think the reality is, look, the last three administrations have essentially allowed Israel's behaviour to continue unchecked. This isn't something new. I don't know if we can tell at this point how much the Israeli regime and Netanyahu can capitalise on this new administration's indifference in terms of policy, and I say indifference because Trump may have made a casual remark about settlements, but I don't think anyone would classify those remarks as demanding anything from Netanyahu. Second off I don't think that, like many other comments, those remarks are meaningless if they're not coupled with some sort of action. This administration, and administrations before, had a wide range of tools in front of them, from limiting the amount of aid they're sending Israel to restricting the non-profit status of groups in the US funding settlements. There's no restriction on that. That money goes to some of the most violent segments of Israeli society.
What do you expect from Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, an advisor who is set to lead peacemaking between both sides?
AK: I don't know what qualifies Jared Kushner to take on any sort of role related to Israel and the Palestinians. Honestly I don't see any. The only thing Trump has said about Kushner is that he's a good businessman and he's Jewish. I don't know how that qualifies you to lead anything in terms of negotiations for anything.
What would a just and equitable one-state solution look like for Israelis and Palestinians?
AK: I think it means that recognising the rights of all Palestinians. That would mean the abolition of laws discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel, the abolition of the military regime governing the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, granting them full equality under the law and the recognition that Israel cannot be a state for all its citizens if it identified as a Jewish state. And I think also recognising the Palestinian right of return. If Israel continues to invite Jews from around the world and automatically grant them citizenship, then why don't they have room for Palestinian refugees?
What does full equality under the law look like?
AK: It means there is nothing in Israeli law that differentiates people based on their religion.
That would mean voting, too?
You're driving right now. What would say to Donald Trump if he were in the car with you?
AK: I don't think I would allow Trump in my car.
What advice would you give him?
AK: I don't think I would start with the Palestinian issue, if I was standing in front of Donald Trump, I think. I would talk about the xenophobia and white supremacy in his administration.
I don't care to normalise this president. I don't care to engage with him. I'm not even sure how long the Republican Party will tolerate this man as a president. So if you're saying what would my advice be for Donald Trump regarding this issue, my advice would essentially be that military aid to Israel should be withheld and institutions that are supporting Israeli settlements and the Israeli military with non-profit status should no longer be granted tax deductible status, and that Israel should be fully pressed to comply with international law.