A senior Israeli Cabinet minister said Monday the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States could usher in a new era of U.S.-Israeli relations that could lead to the abandonment of the two-state solution to resolve the Palestinian conflict.
Education Minister Naftali Bennet, who leads the right-wing Jewish Home party, told members of the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem now is the time to seize the opportunity to “reset the structure across the Middle East.” He encouraged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to communicate Israel’s goals clearly, Reuters reported.
"The combination of changes in the United States, in Europe and in the region provide Israel with a unique opportunity to reset and rethink everything," Bennett said. "We have a chance to reset the structure across the Middle East. We have to seize that opportunity and act on it."
The two-state solution has been a cornerstone of the Middle East peace process since 1974. It envisions an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel to resolve the conflict born with the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. Mainstream Palestinian leaders have expressed interest in the concept since 1982 but disputes remain over borders and the status of Jerusalem, among other issues.
"Trump's victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state," said Bennet, who has been an advocate of settlement construction and annexation of the West Bank. "The era of a Palestinian state is over."
U.S. President Barack Obama said during a news conference Monday Trump is coming into office with fewer ideological stances than some other politicians, but ultimately he is pragmatic.
“Opportunities and threats come and go. Seizing the opportunity is the secret,” Bennet said, citing the upheaval in the Arab and Muslim world, and the changes in Europe and the United States.
Netanyahu has voiced support for a negotiated settlement and demilitarized Palestinian state but opposes a return to pre-1967 borders. He also demands the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in any agreement.
The latest round of peace talks collapsed in 2014.
Bennet noted a half-million Israelis have made their homes in the West Bank since Israel’s capture of the territory in the 1967 Six Day War, the Jerusalem Post reported.
U.S. Jews disagree that continued settlement construction makes Israel more secure with only 17 percent supporting the concept and 44 percent saying it’s detrimental, Foreign Policy noted. A Pew Research Center study indicated in 2013 only 38 percent of U.S. Jews felt Israel was making a sincere effort to make peace.
A Gallup poll in February indicated 62 percent of Americans are more sympathetic to Israelis than Palestinians, with more Republicans than Democrats feeling that way. But on the issue of Palestinian statehood, the majority of Americans favor the two-state solution.