TEL AVIV – A top U.S. Congressman said after a visit to Israel this week that it’s time to find new ways of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict besides the two-state solution.
Chairman of the powerful House Armed Services Committee Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told the Jerusalem Post that “there is a sense in Congress that it is maybe time to look a little broader outside the box” at other resolutions to the conflict.
Thornberry was part of a delegation of five congressmen and one senator in Israel last week on an educational tour organized by the Christian group the U.S. Israel Education Association. The delegation was taken to the settlements, a move that is forbidden on official government trips.
“My view is that some of the assumptions that we have all operated under for a long time – that there has to be a two-state solution, a Palestinian state on the West Bank – some of those assumptions are now being questioned,” Thornberry told the Post.
He said there was a growing feeling in Congress that “you can’t do the same thing over and over again” and hope for a different result. The change in attitude was partly due to the Trump administration, which unlike its predecessor did not unequivocally endorse the two-state solution. He also said that “people look at Gaza as a negative example of what can happen.”
Senator James Lankford, who was also on the trip, said the conflict will not be resolved as the result of some week-long peace summit, rather it will take a “longer-term generational shift.”
“I don’t anticipate that there is any set of issues where the table is set for some grand agreement because, even if the political leaders make an agreement, that does not mean that the people on the street will agree to all those things,” he said.
Republican Congressman Steve Russell, who was also part of the delegation, drew from his experiences in the U.S. Army in Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq, where his unit played a major role in locating and capturing Saddam Hussein.
He outlined three outcomes between two sides that are in conflict with one another: “You have really three options when two groups don’t get along. You have accommodation, which is the ultimate goal; you have assimilation, where the stronger side forces the hand of the weaker, and then they accept it; and you have elimination, when neither side want to agree and are determined to eliminate the other.
“From my perspective as a historian and a soldier, you have Israel, which is willing to do the first two stages – accommodation and assimilation – but have never looked at the third category as a solution.”
For the Palestinians, however, “the first and only option is elimination.”