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analysisU.S.-Israel Relations

Domestic politics at play as US insists on two-state solution

Despite its public stance, the U.S. knows having the P.A. take over in Gaza is a non-starter, experts tell JNS.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv on Nov. 3, 2023. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv on Nov. 3, 2023. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
Israel Kasnett

The Biden administration is insisting that the “day after” Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza see progress toward a two-state solution, ultimately resulting in a Palestinian state next to Israel.

“We have to work toward bringing Israel together in a way that provides for the beginning of option…an option of a two-state solution,” U.S. President Joe Biden said at a campaign reception on Dec. 12.  

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that Gaza must be handed over to the Palestinian Authority at the end of the war. The solution “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the P.A.,” he said.

This stands in sharp contrast to the view expressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said he will “not allow the entry into Gaza of those who educate for terrorism, support terrorism and finance terrorism,” referring to the P.A. 

“Gaza will be neither Hamastan nor Fatahstan,” he added.

During a press conference on Saturday night, Netanyahu said, “As of this moment, the Palestinian Authority senior leadership simply refuses to condemn the massacre, and some of them even praise it openly. They will control Gaza on ‘the day after’? Haven’t we learned anything? As the Prime Minister of Israel, I will not allow that to happen.”

A different era

According to Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israel relations at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan and a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, Biden wants to return to the “two states for two peoples” paradigm because it would reduce hostility towards the United States in Arab countries as well as reduce opposition from the progressive ranks in his government.

For this reason, he said, the United States has an “obsession with the day after.”

“Biden wants Israel’s high-intensity warfare behind him to help his domestic political position,” Gilboa told JNS.

“There are also domestic politics in Israel,” he added. “Netanyahu also appears focused on domestic politics for the day after.”

“Both leaders are worried about their domestic political base,” he said.

He explained that in the past, when the United States went to war, “it was war, period—nothing else. Military activities were not mixed with politics.”

“We live in a different era,” he added.

The United States seems to agree the P.A. is not a good solution, but apparently believes it to be the best of the available options.

According to Gilboa, “Worried about the failures in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States is pushing for a settlement of the Palestinian issue. They want to integrate Gaza with the West Bank, they want the P.A. to take over Gaza and start negotiations over a peace settlement.”

Netanyahu is not the only source of resistance to this concept in Israel.

During an interview with Sky News on Wednesday, Israeli Ambassador to the U.K. Tzipi Hotovely also rejected the possibility, saying that the Palestinians only want one state “from the river to the sea.”

“I think it’s about time for the world to realize the Oslo paradigm failed on October 7 and we need to build a new one,” said Hotovely. When asked if a new paradigm would include a Palestinian state, she said “absolutely no.”

Israeli spokesmen have repeatedly emphasized that Israel would only allow a demilitarized Palestinian state, with all the tools to govern itself but none of the tools with which to threaten Israel.

Political performance

According to John Hannah, a Randi and Charles Wax Senior Fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) in Washington, the U.S. and Israeli positions are actually not as far apart as it would appear.

The idea of a two-state solution governed by the P.A. is “a joke, a distant aspiration, or a complete fantasy depending on your level of cynicism,” he said.

He told JNS that there is “a lot of political performance at play here” and that the Biden administration “knows full well that a Palestinian state is a complete non-starter for the foreseeable future.” 

The P.A. in its current state is “ineffective, corrupt and completely illegitimate in the eyes of its own people,” he added. “It can’t even fight terrorism in Jenin. Why in the world would any Israeli agree to put it in charge of security in Gaza, especially after the existential horror of 10/7 that was celebrated by Palestinian society across the board—not only in Gaza but in the P.A. as well?”

Palestinians support Hamas

The American demand for a Palestinian state governed by the P.A. comes against the backdrop of a striking poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) last week which showed that support for Hamas has more than tripled in the West Bank since Oct. 7.

Even more disturbing, according to the PSR, nearly 75% of Palestinians (82% in the West Bank and 57% in the Gaza Strip) believe Hamas’s atrocities were justified.

This widespread Palestinian sentiment worries many Israelis and is likely to have an effect on their support for a Palestinian state next to Israel.

Shockingly, more than half of adults in the U.S. aged 18 to 24 believe that resolving the ongoing crisis in Gaza involves dismantling the State of Israel and transferring control to Hamas and the Palestinian people, according to a recent Harvard-Harris poll. The survey, conducted last week and released on Friday, indicates that 51% of young Americans advocate ending the Israeli state, while 32% support a two-state solution.

“Such a terror state would be a threat not only to Israel, but to Jordan and Egypt as well, and therefore a disaster for U.S. interests,” Hannah said. 

What is clear is that Israel wants security control over Gaza, with a civil entity governing the civilians, minus the anti-Israel incitement and hatred that has existed there until today. 

“The P.A. would not be able to control both the West Bank and Gaza,” said Gilboa. “The U.S. wants Israel to provide answers but they themselves have not provided sufficient answers.”

Lowest common denominator

According to Hannah, the two-state concept is “the only idea, the lowest common denominator, that the so-called international community can agree on to convince themselves that we’re not all condemned to a future of strife and conflict.”

Because of this, “The administration dutifully mouths the words to placate its friends and allies, and perhaps most importantly its progressive base in the Democratic Party, all the while knowing that it has no chance of being implemented in any timeframe relevant to the immediate ‘day after’ in Gaza,” he said.

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