U.S. President Donald Trump just countered decades of American foreign policy by saying he is open to a one-state solution to bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis.
"I’m looking at two-state and at one-state, and I like the one that both parties like... I can live with either one," Trump said, during a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"I thought the two-state [solution] looked easier for a while," he said, but explained that he would leave the final solution up to Palestinian and Israeli negotiators.
He also hailed the "unbreakable bond" between Israel and the U.S.
But, he criticized Israel's settlement expansion
Trump voiced minor opposition to the continued expansion of Israeli settlements.
"I would like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit," Trump said, directing the comments at Netanyahu.
An earlier statement from his administration suggested that rapid settlement expansion was a hindrance to the peace process. Since Trump's election, Israel approved legislation to legally recognize illegal settlements built on private Palestinian land while announcing 11,000 new settler homes in the West Bank.
Many have suggested that the Israeli government was emboldened by Trump's election victory. The new American president voiced strong support for Israel during his campaign and even suggested he would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, a move many would see as a major setback to a two-state solution and a slap in the face to Palestinians.
Israel and Palestine both recognize Jerusalem as their historic capital.
During the press conference, Trump reiterated his desire to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, saying "I’d love to see that happen."
Palestinian leaders responded
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement following the press conference stressing Palestine's commitment to a two-state solution "that secures ending the Israeli occupation and [will] establish the Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital."
But, he also lauded Trump's criticism of Israeli settlements and demanded a halt to settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Other Palestinian leaders voiced their opposition to Trump's tacit support of a one-state solution.
"If the Trump administration rejects [a two-state solution] it would be destroying the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility abroad," Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said, according to The Independent.
But a colleague of Ashrawi, Xavier Abu Eid, suggested he would be open to a one-state solution if it was done in a fair and democratic way that ensured all groups were represented.
"If it’s going to be one state, it must be a secular and democratic state for everyone," he said. However, this appears to be a very distant possibility under the current leadership of Netanyahu. His government has taken a hardline stance against Palestinian rights and seeks to legally define Israel as a Jewish state.
Palestinians shared their reactions on social media
On the 15th of February 2017, the two state solution was officially buried in the Middle East and with it any attempts to establish the greater nation of Gaza in Sinai with Israel’s annexation of the West Bank.