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Pushing one-state solution in Senate risks Israeli and U.S. interests

Chris van Hollen and Lindsey Graham with Mike Pompeo
Senators Chris Van Hollen (D–Md.) and Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.), co-drafters of the Senate resolution, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

If Israel succeeds in its reported attempts to block the U.S. Senate from expressing support for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, the result could further destabilize the Middle East and endanger American interests across the region.

The big picture: Support for a two-state solution has been U.S. policy since the George W. Bush administration, as it could ensure Israel remains a Jewish-majority democracy while also providing justice for the Palestinians. This bipartisan consensus has broad political support among the American electorate.

Details: A one-state solution — with Israel maintaining physical control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, potentially through annexation — would permanently deny political rights, economic freedom and a sense of justice to the 4.7 million Palestinians in those territories.

The catch: There are risks for Israel as well, including the potential for Palestinians to outnumber Jews given current population growth.

  • That could mean either the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state or, as former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has said, Israel becoming an apartheid state, leading to permanent instability for Israel and deep resentment toward the U.S. across the Arab world.
  • However, Israel doesn’t appear to be worried about the latter, as long as it has American backing to control the Palestinian territories without providing political rights.

Between the lines: Senators are attempting to safeguard the U.S.' interests in the Middle East and to protect Israel from what could ultimately be a counterproductive strategy.

  • If the U.S. communicates a lack of support for a one-state solution, in which Palestinian political rights are denied, Israel could be less likely to see that outcome as an option. A Senate resolution would make this clear in a way the Trump administration has not.

Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and a former deputy assistant secretary of state.