'Everything must be done' to preserve two-state solution: UN

'Everything must be done' to preserve two-state solution: UN
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned the Trump administration's comments on the solution to Israel-Palestinian conflict, urging that there is no option other than a two-state approach.
4 min read
15 February, 2017
Supporters of the two-state solution are scrambling to defend it ahead of Trump-Netanyahu meeting [Getty]

There is no option other than a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and efforts to reach it should be preserved, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in Cairo on Wednesday, a day after a senior White House official said the United States would not insist on a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

"There was a complete agreement" that a resolution needs a "two state-solution and that everything must be done to preserve that possibility," Guterres said after he met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Later, in a speech at Cairo University, Guterres said the Israeli-Palestinian problem was the "mother" of regional conflicts.

What is the two-state solution?

Which two states?

The two-state solution envisions independent Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting side by side peacefully.

This means creating a Palestinian state on the rough basis of the situation before 1967, when Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in a war with its Arab neighbours.

The so-called Green Line demarcates the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians see as their capital.

Who supports it?

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi says there is "a global consensus" that the two-state solution is the best route to peace.

The United Nations, at which the State of Palestine has observer status, has endorsed it, as has the European Union.

The 2012 Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state in exchange for recognition of Israel by Arab States, is also based on two states.

In December 2016, outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry said that it was the only way to lasting peace.

What alternatives?

According to recent polls, support for the two-state solution is falling among Palestinians and Israelis.

In September a survey showed that half of all Palestinians and 41% of Israelis were against the idea.

Another poll in December found only 31% of Palestinians saw the two-state solution as viable.

Some in Israel and Palestine argue for a single, binational state, where Palestinians and Israelis would be equal under law.

"There is no Plan B" other than a two-state solution he added.

His comments come after Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee member, called the Trump administration's abandonment of two-state solution 'irresponsible.'

"This is not a responsible policy and it does not serve the cause of peace. They cannot just say that without an alternative...This does not make sense."

The White House official's comments came ahead of talks between US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, later on Wednesday in Washington.

"A two-state solution that doesn't bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve," the official said on condition of anonymity.

For the better part of half a century, successive US governments – both Republican and Democrat – have backed a two-state solution.

But since coming to office Trump has sought to show that the United States is an unwavering ally of Israel, trying to draw a contrast with Obama.

Read also: The art of the deal: Trump must engage Palestinians

Trump’s inauguration marked a new opportunity for Netanyahu to reinforce bonds with Washington having enjoyed a prickly relationship with the Obama administration.

Obama often warned that Israeli settlement construction could make a two-state solution impossible, and that a one-state solution would put the future of the Israel in question.

But since Trump’s inauguration on January 20, Israel has announced the construction of over 6,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israeli officials have also explicitly expressed their intentions to annex the entire West Bank in recent statements.

Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett earlier this month vowed the annexation of the entire West Bank, as authorities worked on evacuating the illegal Amona outpost.

Read more here: Senior Israeli minister vows annexation of 'entire West Bank'

Any new peace proposal by the Trump administration will likely involve forcing Palestinians to make further concessions to Israel.

PLO secretary-general Saeb Erekat said the organisation remained committed to two states and would oppose any system that discriminated against Palestinians.

Agencies contributed to this report