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US shift on two-state solution 'doesn't make sense': Palestinians

The Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committe member, Hanan Ashrawi speaks during a press conference on February 24, 2015 in the West Bank city of Ramallah
Abbas Momani (AFP/File)
White House says it may not back two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

US President Donald Trump's sharp break with decades of support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does "not make sense," a senior Palestinian said on Wednesday.

"This does not make sense," Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi told AFP. "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.

The break comes on the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the White House.

A senior White House official said the United States would no longer seek to dictate the terms of any eventual peace settlement, but would support what the two sides agree to together.

"A two-state solution that doesn't bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve," the official said in a briefing with the press on condition of anonymity.

The official said that the term "two-state solution" has not been particularly well defined and explained that it won't necessarily be the basis for peace negotiations.

"It's something the two sides have to agree to, he said. "It's not for us to impose that vision."

The official asserted that the term may not be a defining factor in discussions about peace.

"If I ask five people what a two-state solution is, I get eight different answers," he said.

"Peace is the goal," he said. "Whether that comes in the form of a two-state solution if that's what the parties want, or something else if that's what the parties want."

A spokesman for Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls Gaza, said the announcement was "confirmation that the so-called peace process is an illusion."

Unlike the PLO, Hamas does not recognize Israel, and the movement again called on the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank to drop its openness to negotiations.

President Trump will host Netanyahu at the White House on Wednesday, and is expected to express his desire to help broker a solution to the conflict.

For the better part of half a century successive US governments, Republican and Democrat, have backed a two-state solution.

But since coming to office Trump has sought to show that the United States is an unwavering ally of Israel, trying to draw a contrast with President Barack Obama.

Obama often warned that Israeli settlement construction could make a two-state solution impossible, and that a one state solution would put the future of the Jewish state in question.

"That's going to be up to them, we are not going to dictate what the terms of peace are going to be," said the official.

The senior official said the administration is "super excited" about the visit, which he asserted would "usher in a new relationship between Israel and the United States -- something that Israel has not seen in well over eight years, a relationship that will show there is no daylight, that we are fully cognizant of the situation that Israel finds itself in."

The meeting will start with President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greeting the Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mrs. Netanyahu. They will then sign the guest book. After that, they will head to the East Room for a brief press conference, after which the president and the prime minister will meet in the Oval Office.

Trump has yet to speak directly to the Palestinian leadership since taking office.

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