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Sec­retary of State Mike Pompeo announced the United States will no longer view Israeli set­tle­ments on the West Bank as a vio­lation of inter­na­tional law. Those who oppose this policy change cite inter­na­tional law and working toward a two-state solution as reasons why this was a poor choice. The first objection is a straw man. The second is out­dated.

The United States should con­tinue working toward a one-state solution, with Israel in power. At the same time, the Trump admin­is­tration should implement new strategies to raise the quality of life and stan­dards of living for Pales­tinians in the West Bank.

The outcry over this decision has largely come from a Democrat coalition within Con­gress and two-state advocacy groups. Con­gressman Andy Levin, a Jewish Democrat rep­re­senting Michigan’s 9th dis­trict, orga­nized the signing of a letter by 106 Demo­c­ratic House members to express “strong dis­agreement” with the State Department’s decision. 

One of those signers, Con­gress­woman Rashida Tlaib, D‑Detroit, tweeted her dis­tress over the United States’ con­tra­diction of inter­na­tional law. “Israel’s set­tle­ments in the West Bank violate inter­na­tional law,” Tlaib said in the tweet. “No matter what this corrupt and immoral Trump regime (yeah he is a lawless king-like dic­tator) say, it doesn’t change that fact.”

Two-state solution advocacy groups expressed concern over the Trump administration’s decision. J Street, a left-leaning Jewish advocacy group that sup­ports the two-state model, accused the admin­is­tration of “dis­carding decades of bipar­tisan U.S. policy and  fla­grantly dis­re­garding inter­na­tional law” while “tram­pling on the rights of Pales­tinians.”

But Democrat law­makers must first define inter­na­tional law. There is neither a written set of statutes nor a leg­islative body that governs the global pol­itics. Instead, inter­na­tional law is the con­glom­er­ation of customs, treaties, agree­ments, con­ven­tions, tra­di­tions, and prac­tices that inform the way nations interact with each other. For this reason, when the State Department con­demned Israel’s set­tle­ments in the West Bank in 1978, it called them “incon­sistent with inter­na­tional law” rather than “illegal.” 

Inter­na­tional law is not dog­matic. To call some­thing a vio­lation of inter­na­tional law is more a rhetorical move than an objective standard.

The heart of this issue that, by acknowl­edging Israel’s right to occupy the West Bank, a ter­ritory given to the Pales­tinians by the 1949 Fourth Geneva Con­vention, the United States is showing it has given up on cre­ating a Pales­tinian state even if its rhetoric has remained the same. Instead, Trump admin­is­tration is pur­suing peace in that region by focusing on the eco­nomic pros­perity of the Pales­tinian people.  

The first tremors of this policy shift hap­pened at a con­ference in Bahrain in June of this year. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and Director of the Office of American Inno­vation, pitched a $50 billion pro­posal at the con­ference to revi­talize the Pales­tinian economy that did not refer to a two-state solution.

The eco­nomic path to peace is far from new. Prior to the ’80s, the main­stream nar­rative on achieving peace between Israelis and Pales­tinians was to inte­grate the Pales­tinians into Israel by lifting them up eco­nom­i­cally. Pres­ident Ronald Reagan, was an out­spoken advocate for this model. 

We should return to this policy because pushing for a two-state solution has not worked. Since 1937, the United Nations and Israel have offered the Pales­tinians statehood eight times. And eight times, they have walked away from the nego­ti­ating table or did not show up at all, despite the Israelis offering them gen­erous swathes of land. 

Both sides are far too ide­o­log­i­cally driven to split the ter­ritory in a way that sat­isfies both. For each side, it’s a zero-sum game. The zeal of both the Israeli and Pales­tinian people make the two-state solution a prac­tical impos­si­bility.

This begs the question of why the Israelis rather than the Pales­tinians should be given this ter­ritory. There is the classic and com­pelling argument that Israel acts as a sta­bi­lizing force in the region. For the same reason the United States sup­ports Jordan, it should also support Israel. Cer­tainly, we would rather have more Jordans than Irans. 

The Trump admin­is­tration already has taken mea­sures to support Israeli interests while pres­suring the Pales­tinians: They acknowl­edged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017, cut foreign aid to the Pales­tinians in 2018, closed the Pales­tinians’ office in Wash­ington in 2018, and rec­og­nized Israel’s annex­ation of the Golan Heights in 2019.

Most impor­tantly, focusing on the eco­nomic devel­opment of the Pales­tinian people is the path to cre­ating the best peace pos­sible. The belief in the pos­si­bility of rec­on­cil­i­ation between the Pales­tinian and Israeli people is out of touch with reality. 

If the Pales­tinian people no longer suffer eco­nom­i­cally, however, vio­lence and con­flict will cer­tainly decrease as history shows that a stronger middle class is less likely to cause political strife. 

By trading in the out­dated two-state solution for a real­istic eco­nomic approach, the United States is helping put that region on the right tra­jectory.