Israeli settlement expansion ‘eroding’ possibility of two-state solution – Biden to AIPAC

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden  © Debbie Hill
US Vice President Joe Biden has called on Israel to demonstrate its commitment to a two-state solution for ending the Palestinian conflict, stressing that the country’s current expansion of settlements is “eroding” that possibility.

“Israel’s government’s steady and systematic process of expanding settlements, legalizing outposts, seizing land, is eroding, in my view, the prospect of a two-state solution,” Biden said in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a leading pro-Israel lobbying group, as quoted by Reuters.

Biden went on to state that he disagrees with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which believes a peaceful solution can be reached with the Palestinians as Tel Aviv simultaneously expands West Bank settlements.

“Bibi (Netanyahu) thinks it can be accommodated, and I believe he believes it. I don’t,” Biden said.

The vice president also noted that there “is no political will at this moment among Israelis or Palestinians to move forward with serious negotiations,” calling the current state of affairs “disappointing.”

Nonetheless, he stated that Washington has spoken to both parties – not just Israel – about the importance of taking steps towards a two-state solution.

“We’ve stressed to both parties the need to take meaningful steps to demonstrate their commitment to a two-state solution that extends beyond mere words,” he said. “There’s got to be a little ‘show-me.’ This cannot continue to erode.”

The European Union claimed last week that the latest land appropriation in the West Bank would likely hamper any steps Israel might take to reach peace with the Palestinians. The UK, France, and Germany also condemned Tel Aviv for its latest move.

Just two days prior, the United Nations also slammed Israel’s latest land seizure, calling it an “impediment to the two-state solution.”

In its latest move to expand settlements, Israel expressed its intent to seize 579 acres (234 hectares) of land near the Dead Sea and the Palestinian city of Jericho.

Israel is determined to preserve large settlement blocs in any future Palestinian peace agreement, but the Palestinians – who seek to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip – say that settlement expansion denies them territory for a future country.

Palestinians cited Israel’s settlement activity as one of the main factors leading to the collapse of US-brokered peace talks in 2014.