US urging Arab allies not to set deadline for post-war two-state solution

Documents obtained by ToI detail principles US aims to advance on securing Gaza ceasefire, including Palestinian state based on 1967 lines ‘as envisioned in Arab Peace Initiative’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, front left, attends a meeting with Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Hussein al-Sheikh, during a day of meetings about the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas, in Amman, Jordan, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool photo via AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, front left, attends a meeting with his counterparts from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Egypt, along with senior PLO official Hussein al-Sheikh, about the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas, in Amman, Jordan, November 4, 2023. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool photo via AP)

The Biden administration is seeking to prevent its Arab partners from advancing a far-reaching vision for an Israel-Palestinian peace settlement when the war in Gaza is over, and is instead advancing a more scaled back framework that is still certain to be rejected by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, according to documents obtained by The Times of Israel.

Since the beginning of the year, the US has been leading a contact group of top ministers from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority aimed at advancing a plan for the post-war management of the Gaza Strip.

The Arab ministers have also been meeting to coordinate as a group independently of the US. In April, they finished drafting their post-war vision, which included immediate international recognition of a Palestinian state, the establishment of a peacekeeping force in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the launch of peace talks between Israel and the PA to be completed within two years, leading to a transfer of Israeli control of West Bank crossings to the PA, according to leaked passages of the proposal obtained by the US.

While the US supports the broader two-state solution that the six Arab partners are trying to advance, it deemed their proposal “completely unrealistic,” according to a senior Arab diplomat familiar with the matter.

But recognizing that it could not simply reject the Arab proposal without offering an alternative, the State Department drafted a series of principles that could be used as a basis for continued talks with partners in the Middle East, the Arab official said.

The official acknowledged that the initiative has not been a top priority for the Biden administration, which is putting much more weight into first securing a hostage deal that will bring about an end to the Israel-Hamas war that was sparked by the terror group’s October 7 onslaught.

A UN school housing displaced Palestinians that was hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat, in the central Gaza Strip, on June 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Still, the State Department document titled, “Joint statement on principles to support a future of peace for Israelis and Palestinians” has received approval from the White House, a US official said, adding that Washington has been using it as a basis for continued talks with its Arab allies, including meetings US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be holding in Egypt, Qatar and Jordan early next week.

The document is very similar to the post-war principles that Blinken laid out in Tokyo on November 8, though a few additions were made as the US seeks to meet its Arab allies halfway.

The document obtained by The Times of Israel includes ten principles:

  1. A call for the international community to support the reconstruction of Gaza, with the opening of crossings into the Strip to ensure an unimpeded flow of aid.
  2. A rejection of Gaza’s continued rule by terror groups. “All terrorist organizations and armed groups must disarm and renounce violence. A disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration mechanism will facilitate this process in Gaza,” the document states.
  3. A full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza without any reduction in its territory, military occupation or forced displacement of Palestinians, who will be allowed to return to the communities in the enclave they fled from during the war.
  4. A reunification of Gaza and the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority, which will receive assistance from the international partners during a transitional period after the war until it is ready to fully resume governance in the Strip.
  5. A call for the resumption of final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization under the premise that “an enduring end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and end to the occupation can only be achieved through direct negotiations.”
  6. Support for an “independent, contiguous, and viable” Palestinian state “on the basis of the June 4, 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps and a just and agreed solution for Palestinian refugees, as envisioned in the Arab Peace Initiative.” (US President Joe Biden has previously expressed his support for the 1967 lines, but this appears to be the first time that the US is also backing the Arab Peace Initiative. However, the proposal envisions a two-state solution that leads to Israel receiving normalized relations with its Arab neighbors, while the US document presents a reverse approach.)
  7. “The possibility of normalization between Saudi Arabia and other Arab states and Israel with concrete progress toward a two-state solution is a promising avenue to achieving peace, security, and regional integration that will benefit all,” the document continues.
  8. A rejection of unilateral actions by both sides, “including the expansion of settlements and outposts and the glorification of terrorism and violence.” The sides are also called to uphold the rule of law and reject incitement by officials and members of the public.
  9. A call to abide by commitments reached during summits last year in Aqaba and Sharm al-Sheikh, which also rejected the advancement of unilateral actions. The US document also urges the upholding of the status quo at the Temple Mount, “recognizing the deep connection of people of many faiths to Jerusalem and that the boundaries in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations.”
  10. An appeal for the PA to implement far-reaching reforms “focused on good governance, transparency, fighting corruption, education and welfare reform.”
Troops of the Nahal Brigade operate in southern Gaza’s Rafah, in a handout photo published June 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

“We agree to focus our diplomatic efforts on advancing these principles, setting the conditions for durable peace and security in the region,” the US document concludes.

Responding to a request for comment on the matter, a State Department spokesperson said, “This is part of a larger brainstorming effort we’ve been doing over the last months with our Arab partners.”

Notably, the US vision does not advocate a “time-bound, irreversible pathway to a Palestinian state,” as Blinken has repeatedly insisted will be necessary for Saudi Arabia to agree to normalize relations with Israel.

But even a non-time-bound path to a Palestinian state is not something Netanyahu has shown any interest in accepting, arguing it would amount to a “prize” for Hamas after the terror group perpetrated the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust on October 7.

Most Popular
read more: