On Wednesday, during their joint White House press briefing, President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE hammered the final two nails in the coffin of Palestinian statehood and presided over the burial of the two-state paradigm for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Untethered from the pressures exerted on him during the Obama administration to pay lip service to the idea of Palestinian statehood, Netanyahu let loose his real feelings on the subject in the presence of a president far more sympathetic to his worldview.
The creation of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu thundered, would lead to "another failed state, another terrorist Islamist dictatorship that will not work for peace but work to destroy us." Therefore, "in any peace agreement," Netanyahu declared, "Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River."
In other words, in Netanyahu's formulation, Israel will retain sovereignty over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — those Palestinian territories militarily occupied by Israel for the past 50 years, areas which are supposed to form a future Palestinian state under the terms of previous negotiations.
For Trump, Netanyahu's definitive discarding of Palestinian sovereignty was a matter of sublime indifference, notwithstanding two decades of declared bipartisan U.S. policy in support of Palestinian statehood. "So I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like," Trump quipped.
Intent on working "very, very diligently" on a "great peace deal" between Israel and the Palestinians, the president initially thought that "two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best."
But for a president who fancies himself as the ultimate dealmaker, Trump seemingly does not realize how diametrically opposed and irreconcilable Netanyahu's one-state vision is with the Palestinians'.
The entrenched one-state reality that Israel has created through its relentless colonization of Palestinian land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (Israel's settler population grew by more than 100,000 during the Obama era), has already resulted in a separate-and-unequal status for generations of Palestinians subjected to brutal military rule.
Netanyahu's ideal post-two-state scenario would be to permanently subjugate and disenfranchise these Palestinians by annexing as much of their land as feasible while devolving to them as little power as possible. Thus, Israel would extend its sovereignty over the Palestinian West Bank while relegating its indigenous inhabitants to a limited autonomy in isolated enclaves. Palestinians would have no citizenship rights and therefore no say over the policies of the government ruling over them.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip — already subject to more than a decade-long Israeli blockade and intermittent, devastating Israeli attacks — would remain in a state of extraterritorial limbo, denationalized and left in their open-air prison to the mercies of their Israeli jailers.
Palestinian citizens of Israel — barely tolerated today in the Israeli body politic — would remain subject to the dozens of discriminatory laws against them which infringe upon their right to equality in nearly every field imaginable, from education to land use to social services. And Palestinian refugees exiled from their homes by Israel during its creation in 1948 would continue to be denied by Israel their internationally recognized right of return.
Let's call this bleak one-state vision what it is: apartheid.
Needless to say that for Palestinians, many of whom have long since soured on the prospect of independence, rightly convinced that the U.S.-dominated "peace process" would never afford them true sovereignty, this one-state plan is a nonstarter.
Rather than an apartheid state exercising hegemony over the totality of their patrimony, Palestinians will insist on an alternative one-state reality based on the premise of equality. This will mean the extension of citizenship rights to all Palestinians previously living under Israeli military occupation, the dismantling of the Israeli legal system designed to privilege Israeli Jews at the expense of Palestinians and the exercising by Palestinian refugees of their right of return.
Between these two polar opposite one-state visions of apartheid and equality, there is — nor can there be — any common ground. The most skilled mediator cannot reconcile the untenable.
Perhaps Trump, in his boundless self-confidence and in his cocooned reality spun by advisers on Israel policy who are all fervent supporters of Israeli domination over Palestinians, believes that he can induce Palestinians to acquiesce in an apartheid state.
Perhaps Trump, whose administration has largely shunned contact with Palestinians until it develops a coordinated strategy with Israel, has yet to realize that Palestinians — like all people — will not willingly abase themselves.
However, once President Trump — like his predecessors — comes to the conclusion that Palestinians will not concede their individual and collective rights, he will be forced to acknowledge that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Palestinian people cannot simultaneously be happy with these competing one-state alternatives.
Josh Ruebner is policy director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights and author of "Shattered Hopes: Obama's Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace."
The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.