JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden reaffirmed American support for a two-state solution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Thursday, a day before a scheduled meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.
Biden’s visit has met with deep scepticism from Palestinians who say their concerns on issues including self-determination and settlement building in the occupied West Bank have been swept aside by a drive to fix Israel into regional security arrangements with Arab countries.
They also say Washington has failed to live up to pledges on reopening its consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem, closed by former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019.
Speaking following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Biden said the United States wanted to see a “lasting negotiated peace between the state of Israel and the Palestinian people”.
“Israel must remain an independent, democratic Jewish state,” he said.
“The best way to achieve that remains a two-state solution, for two people, both of whom have deep and ancient roots in this land, living side by side in peace and security.”
However he gave no detail and did not speak about reviving the stalled process to reach a settlement between the two sides.
A two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state sitting alongside the existing state of Israel has long been the favoured solution for the international community but has appeared an increasingly distant prospect, with broad sections of Israeli politics opposed.
Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, backed Biden’s position, saying: “A two-state solution is a guarantee for a strong, democratic State of Israel with a Jewish majority.”
But with Israel heading to elections in November and little support for stopping the expansion of settlements on West Bank land that Palestinians want for a future state, immediate prospects for agreement appear remote.
Bassam al-Salhe, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), urged Abbas to cancel his meeting with Biden.
“By its continued support to the occupation and complicity in its plans and its continued fight against the international solidarity movement with the Palestinian people, the United States represents a prime obstacle before Palestine’s freedom,” he said.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Nick Macfie)