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World

Trump's Shift On Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Opens Debate On Peace Plans

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President Trump says he's open to new ways of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He's willing to shift from long-standing U.S. policy that endorses an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Here's what he said at a news conference last month.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So I'm looking at two-state and one-state. And I like the one that both parties like.

SIEGEL: Well, that openness has encouraged Israelis to promote a wide range of peace plans of their own. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

(APPLAUSE)

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: An Israeli advocacy group recently invited foreign diplomats and journalists for a kind of speed dating event. Several speakers had 10 minutes each to say how they would solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First up was former peace negotiator Gadi Baltiansky.

GADI BALTIANSKY: Now with an American president that says that he wants to reach a deal - he doesn't care how, but he wants a deal - there is a new window for opportunity if we act now.

ESTRIN: The other speakers included two former Israeli military colonels, a former advocate for road safety, an Israeli lawmaker, a Jewish settler-poet, a Palestinian activist, even an Israeli physicist. A quick reminder of the situation on the ground today - Israel occupies the West Bank, citing historical ties and security needs. And Israel and Egypt control the entrances to the Gaza Strip. Palestinians want those areas for their own state. The two-state solution has been the basis of past peace talks.

But President Trump has opened the door to other possibilities. And that has energized Israeli right wing politicians like lawmaker Yehuda Glick. He outlined his plan for the West Bank, referring to it by its biblical name, Judea and Samaria.

YEHUDA GLICK: The only way to receive equality is by imposing Jewish sovereignty, Israeli sovereignty over - all over Judea and Samaria.

ESTRIN: Many Israeli right wing plans call for unilaterally annexing some or all of the West Bank, declaring it part of Israel. Then there are all kinds of two-state proposals. One unconventional plan is a joint Israeli-Palestinian initiative called Two States One Homeland. It calls for open borders. Palestinians could live in Israel. And an equal number of Israelis could live in the Palestinian state. Eliaz Cohen, a Jewish settler-poet from the West Bank, is with the group.

ELIAZ COHEN: Israel and Palestine is the homeland that comes from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, the one and the same homeland of both people. Separation is disaster for both people. Separation won't exist.

ESTRIN: The leader of Israel's center-left political party wants to delay all peace negotiations for a decade while improving Palestinian infrastructure. Another proposal would have two states with the West Bank and Gaza connected by a long tunnel running underneath Israel. On the Palestinian side, people have long sought an independent state separate from Israel.

But now, more are talking about only one state, where Israelis and Palestinians have equal rights, a proposal that could end Israel's Jewish majority. Billboards have sprung up in the West Bank saying, if the choice is between one state and two states, I choose one state. I decided to run all these ideas by Palestinian political commentator and businessman Sam Bahour.

SAM BAHOUR: The issue is not walking into a restaurant and finding a menu of options of how to solve this conflict.

ESTRIN: The only option, he says, is the one the Palestinian Authority and the international community are committed to - creating a Palestinian state next to Israel. Then the two sides can get creative about how those two states work together.

BAHOUR: And that's a priority to any kind of creativity that we can include, such as confederation or federation or parallel sovereignty. There's many flavors of what can happen once Palestinians gain statehood.

ESTRIN: One European diplomat, who didn't want to be identified, told me it was helpful to hear the alternative ideas presented at the peace plan event because they reinforced his belief that the two-state solution is still the most viable. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF RJD2 AND STS SONG, "MONSTERS UNDER MY BED") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.