By most accounts, July will mark the 80th anniversary of the two-state solution. It was in 1937 that the British Peel Commission set about to understand why Arab riots had engulfed Mandatory Palestine. “An irrepressible conflict has arisen between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country,” the commission concluded. “There is no common ground between them. Their national aspirations are incompatible.” The commission determined that the land should be divided into two countries—one Jewish and one Arab.
Since then, the germ of the Peel Commission has served as the most-agreed-upon guidepost for resolving what is now a century-long conflict. On Wednesday, however, President Donald Trump broke with decades of U.S. diplomacy by announcing that he wasn’t committed to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the two-state solution. “I’m looking at two states and one state, I like the one that both parties like,” the president said at a joint White House press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I can live with either one.” Trump was echoed more vaguely by Netanyahu, who offered that he would rather deal with “substance,” rather than “labels.” The only problem, which the Peel Commission identified all those years ago, is that the conflict itself is defined by labels.