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Palestinian Authority hails US House resolution for two-state solution, despite progressives’ opposition

Senior PA official Saeb Erekat (L) and President Mahmoud Abbas (R) [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 December, 2019

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Saeb Erekat re-emphasised the US role for supporting a two-state solution as Netanyahu edges closer to annexing parts of the West Bank with Trump’s support.
The Palestinian Authority on Friday welcomed a resolution passed by the US House of Representatives supporting a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, interpreted as a warning to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he mulls annexing the West Bank.

“The United States, with the support of partners, can play a constructive role in ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by submitting a proposal to achieve a two-state solution, in line with previous US proposals,” senior Palestinian official, Saeb Erekat said in a statement.

Erekat, who has represented the Palestinian Authority in many landmark peace negotiations, emphasised that a two-state solution would increase security, stability and well-being in the region, and is therefore in the interests of the US.

“The United States' proposal for a just, stable and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should explicitly support the two-state solution, rather than encourage steps by either party that would make a peaceful solution to the conflict an unachievable goal,” he added.

Comment: Israel's profitable occupation, and the billion-dollar cost to Palestine

The resolution came as Netanyahu makes moves to annex parts of Palestinian territory in the West Bank, which has been implicitly supported by a Trump administration that stands squarely behind the right-wing prime minister.

In November, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo endorsed Israeli settlements in the West Bank by announcing that the US will no longer consider them illegal under international law.

Passed largely along party lines, the House resolution on Friday said that a two-state solution "can both ensure the state of Israel's survival as a Jewish and democratic state and fulfill the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own."

The United States should "discourage steps by either side that would put a peaceful end to the conflict further out of reach," the resolution said.

Such steps include "unilateral annexation of territory or efforts to achieve Palestinian statehood status outside the framework of negotiations with Israel," it said.

In order to gain broad support accross the House, the resolution’s authors removed a call to end Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, which drew opposition from progressive Democrats.

Four left-wing congresswomen, dubbed "The Squad", voted against the resolution, as did all but five republican representatives, albeit for very different reasons.

Republican backlash

The two-state solution had enjoyed support from successive US presidents and, until recently, House resolutions on Israel saw little dissent.

Republicans accused the Democrats of improperly intervening in Israeli decision-making and ignoring what they call incitement by the Palestinians.

"The resolution completely ignores the reason why the two-state solution has never gotten off the ground: Venomous voices among the Palestinians don't want two states, they want one - a Palestinian state," said Republican Representative Steve Chabot.

The resolution "gives the Palestinians a vote over Israel's future. We shouldn't let that happen," he said.

Netanyahu, who is clinging to power after two inconclusive elections and a criminal indictment, has vowed to annex much of the West Bank - a move that would doom prospects for a Palestinian state.

The Trump administration, whose evangelical Christian base staunchly backs Israel, has not condemned annexation and rallied behind Netanyahu.

In a step that could ease the way for annexation, Pompeo said last month that the United States no longer shared the widely held international position that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal.

Five Republicans voted for the resolution and four Democrats opposed it.

‘The Squad’ object occupation erasure

The four Democrats to vote against the resolution included Rashida Tlaib, a Squad member who is of Palestinian descent.

Comment: Netanyahu's real crimes

"This resolution not only endorses an unrealistic, unattainable solution - one that Israel has made impossible - but also one that legitimises inequality, ethnic discrimination and inhumane conditions," said told the House.

Meanwhile Squad member Ilhan Omar tweeted her reasons for not being able to support the resolution despite supporting a two-state solution.

As well as the removal of the occupation clause, Omar pointed out that an amendment was added to the resolution committing to “ironclad” support for billions of military aid the US gives Israel annually and unconditionally.

“The goal of these changes was clear: to pass a resolution that will not actually bring a resolution to this conflict,” Omar added.

Progressives such as Bernie Sanders have voiced their intention to leverage the aid package in order to bring about peace and ensure Israel does more to protest Palestinian human rights.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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