WASHINGTON – Top officials in the Trump administration sought to reassure lawmakers and foreign allies on Thursday that the United States remains committed to a twostate solution between Israel and the Palestinians, just one day after their boss said that “one state” endorsed by both parties would work just as well for him.Testifying before the Senate in a hearing on his nomination as ambassador to Israel, David Friedman said a two-state solution – in which a Jewish State of Israel and an independent Arab state of Palestine live side by side in peace and security, ending all claims in the conflict – remains the “best possibility” for genuine peace in the region.“A two-state solution, if it could be achieved, would bring tremendous benefit to both Israel and the Palestinians,” Friedman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calling such a solution “ideal.” He said he will not campaign, support or advocate for Israel’s annexation of the West Bank, which has long been considered the future home of a Palestinian state.“First of all, the two-state solution is what we support,” Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, told a group of reporters on Thursday.“Anybody that wants to say the United States does not support the two-state solution – that would be an error. We absolutely support the two-state solution, but we are thinking out of the box as well.”Their comments came after Trump said on Wednesday that he was open to ideas beyond a two-state solution, the longstanding bedrock of Washington policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.“I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like,” Trump told a joint news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I can live with either one.” Trump did not specify what a one-state solution amenable to both Palestinians and Israelis might look like, and when asked, Friedman struggled to answer as well, refusing to endorse any plan that denies sovereign rights to Palestinians.“I don’t think anyone would ever support [an outcome] where different classes of citizens would have different rights,” Friedman said. “I don’t know Israelis on the Right – even on the far Right – who would support that.”Friedman’s confirmation hearing was dominated by questions over his derogatory and inflammatory comments leveled at Jewish figures and organizations over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, including incidents in which he called Jewish critics “morons” and “kapos.”Over the last month, he has conducted an apology tour of those he insulted during the campaign, calling most of his critics to express his regrets.“There is no excuse,” he told the Senate panel. “If you want me to rationalize it or justify it, I cannot. These were hurtful words.”
But the organization which suffered from his harshest criticisms, J Street, has not received a call. He maintains “profound” differences with the group, he said, although he apologized for comparing them to Jews who collaborated with Nazis during World War II.While Friedman took several opportunities to express hope for peace, he also explained why he so frequently expressed skepticism throughout the campaign that such a peace can realistically come to pass.He still questions whether Palestinians are prepared to make the concessions necessary: to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and “denounce terror.” And he wondered aloud whether leadership exists in the Palestinian community to shepherd them to peace. He was unsure whether moderate forces would prevail in future elections in the West Bank, and called the Gaza Strip “ungovernable” territory. “People hang on every word that is issued on this subject,” Friedman said, calling for “private” diplomacy as Trump begins his peace initiative. “I think you have to be careful.”
Hecklers take aim at David Friedman. Credit: Reuters.