In 1947, in the aftermath of the Second World War, the United Nations passed Resolution 181, which laid the foundation for the partition of Palestine. The Arab and Jewish communities were accorded different territories, with Jerusalem as an internationally administered city. The Palestinian community and surrounding Arab countries rejected the resolution, refusing to accept the creation of a Jewish state. The ensuing conflict, referred to as the Arab-Israeli War in the West, led to the defeat of the Arab armies and the successful establishment of Israel. The conflict expanded Israel’s borders beyond the original partition plan and created a wave of more than 750,000 Palestinian refugees.
Successive Israeli victories in the wars of 1967 and 1973 resulted in the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights. These wars resulted in more Palestinians being displaced, with many fleeing to neighboring Arab countries. As a result of the 1973 War, and American mediation under President Jimmy Carter, Egypt began normalizing relations with Israel, resulting in the return of the Sinai Peninsula, a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, and Egyptian recognition of Israel as a sovereign state.
Gaza and the West Bank remained under Israeli military occupation throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and into the 1990s. During this time the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) began negotiating a peaceful settlement. The Oslo Accords of 1993 facilitated the creation of the Palestinian Authority and the withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Accords were signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzakh Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. Since then, the peace process has become complicated by growing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, continued Israeli military presence in the West Bank, and a blockade on Gaza.
Since American recognition of Israeli sovereignty, the United States has sought to act as a neutral intermediary between Arab and Israeli interests. The role of intermediary has allowed the United States to influence and encourage negotiations between the two sides. A cornerstone of these negotiations has been the two-state solution, which seeks to establish two separate states for the Palestinians and the Israelis, side by side within secure and recognized borders, and a just resolution of the issue of displaced refugees. This solution, first agreed to by both sides with the Oslo Accords in 1993, has been the basis of subsequent American mediation in the conflict.
Since taking office, President Trump’s Administration has upended American diplomatic efforts to settle the conflict peacefully and establish the two-state solution. His overt pro-Israel bias has also emboldened Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take a number of steps that undermine the viability of the two-state solution and raise questions about the future of American policy.
In December of 2017, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Not long after, in May of 2018, the U.S. embassy was moved to Jerusalem. This move went against decades of international consensus and diplomatic efforts to keep Jerusalem a neutral city to be shared by the Palestinian and Jewish peoples.
In March of 2019, President Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Syrian territory under Israeli occupation since 1973. This sets the dangerous precedent of American recognition of unilateral Israeli annexation of territories it is illegally occupying. With Netanyahu’s April promise to begin annexation of the West Bank, these acts of appeasement by the Trump Administration seriously undermine the viability of the two-state solution, and present the possibility of recognizing further illegal annexations.
What you can do
For decades, the United States has led international efforts to advance a solution to the conflict that offers both Israelis and Palestinians dignity, security, and self-determination. A two-state solution, which has been U.S. policy since the George W. Bush administration, is crucial for the parties to the conflict and for advancing American regional interests in stability and security. The Trump administration's actions put the two-state solution, and America's leadership in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, at risk and set back the human rights, civil rights, and right to self-determination of the Palestinians.
We’re asking members of Congress to take proactive steps to maintain the viability of the two-state solution aligned with international law and to reject actions that undermine that possibility. Join us by calling your congressional representatives at (202) 224-3121 today. Here’s what you can say:
Ask them to support legislation that affirms the importance of the two-state solution and rejects the idea of annexing territory acquired by force. If Netanyahu goes though with his plan to annex parts of the West Bank, it could destroy the viability of the two-state solution and rob from future generations of Israelis and Palestinians the opportunity to live side by side with peace and dignity.
UMD Polling on America Opinion of the Two-State Solution - University of Maryland