US Senator Chris Van Hollen: Two-state solution on 'collision course' with right-wing Israeli gov't
The two-state solution could be on a collision course with the new right-wing Israeli government, Senator Chris Van Hollen told reporters Tuesday morning during a briefing, in which he discussed a range of issues relating to the Middle East at a time of escalated violence and tension in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The discussion took place as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was wrapping up a visit to the region. This included two days in Israel and the occupied West Bank, where he met with political leaders as well as members of civil society, as the world's eyes are on Israel's new far-right coalition to see if they will follow through on some of their stated extreme policies on women, the LGBTQ+ community and Palestinians and the two-state solution.
"If you look at the platform of this new government, it is directly at odds with that US policy," Van Hollen told a room of reporters at the National Press Club in Washington. "I think you're seeing these representatives from the Biden administration have been trying to consult quietly with the new government, setting what our views are and talking about how they can avoid crossing those lines in US policy."
Later, when asked by The New Arab why they're consulting quietly, he responded, "I've encouraged them to be more vocal."
The senator expressed concern over statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over what constitutes Israeli land.
"If you just look at the overall statements by this coalition government, Netanyahu says Israel has the exclusive and inalienable right to the lands of Israel and they include within that the West Bank," he said.
"Clearly that is on a collision course with the US position of the two-state solution. How we navigate this period has been a subject of these conversations."
Van Hollen, the junior senator from Maryland, has been engaged with the region since his time as a congressman when he travelled there shortly after the Iran-Iraq war following reports of chemical weapons use by then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The senator's record on Israel has gone back and forth between progressive and establishment over the years. As a House member in 2006, in a rare criticism of Israel, he wrote a letter to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, urging her to call on Israel for an immediate ceasefire during its assault on Lebanon. In later years, he accepted large campaign contributions from major AIPAC donors.
These days, he appears to be leaning more on the progressive side, possibly in response to more extreme policies. He was one of the few senators to repeatedly call for an independent investigation into the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, something he said he will continue to pursue.
In other parts of the region, he expressed concern over Iran's ongoing crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. Because of the situation, he described the nuclear deal as being in cold storage, though not dead.
He also expressed concern over the Turkish government's suppression of its opposition, as well as what he sees as an insufficient response to ISIS. He added that the US should continue to support the democratic movement in Sudan.
The challenge right now, he said, is Netanyahu and the right-wing government. He noted that the US continues to have a relationship with Israel based on shared values and interests, some of which are not shared at this time.
"This is why the Biden administration has said it will watch what the government does and not what various members of the [Israeli government] say," Van Hollen said, noting that the US policy against settlements, with the exception of the previous administration, has been clear.
He believes that the Biden administration "will face some challenges if this new government pursues the policies it says it intends to pursue."
"It's on a collision course. You could say the two-state solution is hanging by a thread," he added.