0906 GMT January 22, 2019
On the eve of the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, a senior White House official said it was up to the Israelis and Palestinians themselves to decide on the shape of any future peace.
"Whether that comes in the form of a two–state solution if that's what the parties want, or something else," the official said on Tuesday, adding that Trump, while giving peace "high priority" would not try to "dictate" an agreement.
For Palestinians, who seek a state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Beit-ul-Moqaddas and in the Gaza Strip, even the notion of a US retreat from the internationally backed goal of a future Palestine was alarming.
"If the Trump administration rejects this policy it would be destroying the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility abroad," Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in response to the US official's remarks.
"Accommodating the most extreme and irresponsible elements in Israel and in the White House is no way to make responsible foreign policy," she said in a statement.
“This does not make sense,” Ashrawi said.
“This is not a responsible policy and it does not serve the cause of peace. They cannot just say that without an alternative,” she added.
Commenting on the White House official's remarks, Husam Zomlot, strategic affairs adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, noted that Palestinian statehood has long been at the heart of international peace efforts.
"The two-state solution is not something we just came up with. It is an international consensus and decision after decades of Israel's rejection of the one-state democratic formula," Zomlot said.
On his departure for Washington on Monday, Netanyahu sidestepped a question on whether he still backed a two-state solution, saying he would make his position clear in the US Capital.
But he has spoken of a "state minus," suggesting he could offer the Palestinians deep-seated autonomy – they already exercise limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim deals – and the trappings of statehood without full sovereignty.