US shift on two-state solution irresponsible: Palestinians

AFP , Wednesday 15 Feb 2017

Palestinian chief negotiator and Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, speaks during a press conference in the West Bank city of Jericho on February 15, 2017 (Photo: AFP)

US President Donald Trump's break with decades of support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is irresponsible and does not advance peace, a senior Palestinian official said on Wednesday.

"This does not make sense," Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi told AFP. "This is not a responsible policy and it does not serve the cause of peace.

"They cannot just say that without an alternative," she added.

On Tuesday, a senior White House official said the United States would no longer seek to dictate the terms of any eventual peace settlement by insisting on a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but would support whatever the two sides agree together.

The comments came ahead of White House talks between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Wednesday.

"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.

"Peace is the goal, whether that comes in the form of a two-state solution if that's what the parties want, or something else if that's what the parties want."

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

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

"Israel refuses one democratic secular state where Jews, Muslims and Christians can be equal and those in government in Israel want to destroy the two-state solution," he told a press conference.

"The alternative will not and cannot be one state, two systems."

Trump has not spoken directly to the Palestinian leadership since taking office last month.

A spokesman for Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls Gaza, said the announcement was "confirmation that the so-called peace process is an illusion."

Unlike the PLO, Hamas does not recognise Israel, and calls on the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank to drop its openness to negotiations.

Netanyahu's visit comes amid pressure from many of his allies to use Trump's election as an opportunity to kill off the two-state solution.

It is the first time in four terms that Netanyahu's leadership has coincided with a Republican in the White House.

Gilad Erdan, the internal security minister from Netanyahu's Likud Party, said Monday that not one government minister supports a Palestinian state.

Ashrawi accused Trump of bowing to Netanyahu's rightwingers.

"The US administration is trying to accommodate Netanyahu's extremist coalition," she said.

Sallai Meridor, Israeli ambassador to the US under the previous government, said the announcement may make it harder to get meaningful negotiations.

"It is difficult to see the Palestinians coming to the table today without the formula of the Palestinian state," he told reporters.

"Nor is it likely to see the Arab countries feel comfortable joining any process if the issue of a Palestinian state is not on the table."

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