Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) returned from a Middle East tour saying that he saw no alternative to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict other than the two-state solution, JTA reported Wednesday.
“I would say I don’t know what the alternative is other than a two-state solution,” Romney was quoted as having said on Tuesday in his first meeting with reporters since returning from the region last week.
“No one articulated to us anywhere in the region an idea or a proposal for something other than a two-state solution,” added Romney, who has just assumed the chairmanship of the Middle East subcommittee in the Senate.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), the ranking member on the subcommittee, traveled with Romney and sat at his side during the briefing in the Capitol. He nodded in agreement, saying “right”, according to JTA.
Romney went on to describe leaders he and Murphy met in the Palestinian areas and Jordan.
“They described what would occur if there were not a two-state solution, and that would be an Israel — or a one state — an Israel where you have 6.6 million Palestinians and 6.6 million Jews and the Palestinians have larger families than the Jews, and so over time it would become predominantly Palestinian,” he said. “That would not seem to be something which the Israelis were looking for and something which the Palestinians felt was unlikely to be the outcome that would be satisfying to the Israeli government.”
Romney and Murphy met with the new Palestinian Authority (PA) cabinet leader, Mohammad Shtayyeh, but not with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, with whom they spoke separately over the phone, according to the report.
Romney said Shtayyeh showed the delegation a map of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.
“He obviously communicated how difficult it would be to carve out a Palestinian state given the location of those settlements,” Romney said, according to JTA. “But he described the most extreme view in terms of what Israel might ask for in terms of territory. Time will tell, there will be a process of negotiation hopefully led by our country, and I hope that the framework that comes out is one that leads to that kind of fruitful discussion. But time will tell.”
Murphy said interlocutors expressed concerns that a failed peace plan launch could destabilize the region, particularly Jordan, a key US ally.
“There is real worry about what the reaction on the Jordanian street will be to a peace framework that is not a true framework for discussion,” Murphy said. “There is a general worry around the region as to what the political fallout will be if this agreement, this framework, is a nonstarter.”
The comments come as the Trump administration prepares to unveil its peace plan for Israel and the PA.
US envoy Jason Greenblatt recently confirmed a Reuters report saying that the Trump administration’s peace plan will be unveiled after Israel forms a governing coalition and after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in early June.
A source familiar with the Trump peace plan recently told The Washington Post that it will include practical improvements in the lives of Palestinian Arabs but is likely to stop short of ensuring a separate, fully sovereign Palestinian state.
So far there have been no indications about whether the plan will call for a two-state solution. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently refused to reaffirm US support for a Palestinian state, telling a Senate subcommittee that "Ultimately the Israelis and Palestinians will decide how to resolve this.”
Several months ago, during a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Trump said he thought a "two-state solution" was the best way to solve the Israel-Palestinian Arab conflict.
He later qualified those comments and said that, while he still thinks the two-state solution is the way, he would be fine with whatever solution the two sides agree upon.