David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and Ghaith al-Omari of the American Task Force on Palestine argue that Obama can breathe new life into the two-state solution if, during his trip to Israel, he can get both sides to repeat the kinds of statements they each have made allaying the other’s fears:
In his speech to a joint session of Congress in 2011, for example, Netanyahu announced that “We seek a peace . . . in which [the Palestinians will] be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state.”
Abbas said publicly in June 2010: “Nobody denies the Jewish history in the Middle East. A third of [the] holy Koran talks about the Jews in the Middle East, in this area. Nobody from our side, at least, denies that the Jews were in Palestine, were in the Middle East.”
By repeating statements like these, Abbas and Netanyahu could make progress among the majorities on both sides that still support two states:
In his visit, Obama should insist that senior officials from both sides publicly and consistently reiterate fundamental principles to allay the basic fears of the other’s citizens. He should make it clear that the United States is listening and will be critical of negative messaging.
What’s in it for the leaders should be equally clear: If either hopes to extract a similar statement from the other, he must make one himself. To be sustainable, positive messaging must be both unambiguous and reciprocal.
Although it is easy to despair over the current stalemate, re-engaging the skeptical publics of both sides is attainable — and necessary, if progress is to be achieved.