The Presidential Candidates on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
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The Presidential Candidates on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

July 30, 2019 11:51 am (EST)

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CFR invited the presidential candidates challenging President Trump in the 2020 election to articulate their positions on twelve critical foreign policy issues. Candidates’ answers are posted exactly as they are received. View all questions here.


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Do you support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, if so, how would you go about trying to achieve it?

Joe Biden

Joe Biden Former vice president of the United States

I believe a two-state solution is the only path to long-term security for Israel, while sustaining its identity as a Jewish and democratic state. It is also the only way to ensure Palestinian dignity and their legitimate interest in national self-determination. And it is a necessary condition to take full advantage of the opening that exists for greater cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

At present, neither the Israeli nor Palestinian leadership seems willing to take the political risks necessary to make progress through direct negotiations. This challenge has been made even more difficult by President Trump’s unilateralism, his moves to cut off assistance to the Palestinians, and his equivocation on the importance of a two-state solution.

I will restore credible engagement with both sides to the conflict. America must sustain its ironclad commitment to Israel’s security – including the unprecedented support provided by the Obama-Biden administration. It is also essential to resume assistance to the Palestinian Authority that supports Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, people-to-people programs, economic development, and humanitarian aid and health care for the Palestinian people.

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My administration will urge both sides to take steps to keep the prospect of a two-state outcome alive. Palestinian leaders should end the incitement and glorification of violence, and they must begin to level with their people about the legitimacy and permanence of Israel as a Jewish state in the historic homeland of the Jewish people. Israeli leaders should stop the expansion of West Bank settlements and talk of annexation that would make two states impossible to achieve. They must recognize the legitimacy of Palestinians' aspirations for statehood. Both sides should work to provide more relief to the people of Gaza while working to weaken, and ultimately replace, Hamas. And Arab states should take more steps toward normalization with Israel and increase their financial and diplomatic support for building Palestinian institutions.

Read all of Joe Biden’s responses.


Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg Former mayor of New York City Withdrawn

Israel is the closest and most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East, as it has been for more than half a century. Our diplomatic, military and intelligence agencies work closely with their Israeli counterparts to promote the security of both countries. I believe that America’s ability to defend its interests in the Middle East depends on Israel. Guaranteeing the survival of a democratic, Jewish state in the Holy Land has been a solemn obligation of the United States for 70 years. Our commitment to Israel’s security, prosperity and democracy is based on shared values, not just common interests — and I will ensure that commitment remains unshakeable. 

At the same time, any enduring peace must have as its foundation two states for two peoples — one Jewish and one Palestinian. Reaching such a resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians is the best way for Israel to remain a prosperous, secure and stable Jewish democracy. The issue of Israeli settlements on the West Bank will have to be part of any eventual peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Until they reach that agreement, both sides should avoid unilateral preemptive actions that make peace less likely. But my bedrock commitment would be that any two-state solution ensures Israel’s security. 

I believe that the U.S. must continue to stand for a durable resolution to the conflict that provides justice, democracy and opportunity to the Palestinians. But the U.S. cannot want peace more than the parties themselves. The Palestinian people deserve leadership that prioritizes basic services, sanitation and economic opportunity. Terrorist attacks against Israel emanating from Gaza are appalling and not in the interests of the majority of Gazans, who are enduring a humanitarian crisis. In the meantime, I support continued international assistance to help the Palestinian Authority improve technology, infrastructure, education and entrepreneurship for law-abiding citizens. 

Read all of Michael Bloomberg’s responses.

Cory Booker

Cory Booker Senator, New JerseyWithdrawn

I support a two-state solution because I believe in justice and self-determination for both Israelis and Palestineans. As President of the United States, I will be committed to finding a two-state solution to the conflict so that both Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in peace with dignity and security. 

Read all of Cory Booker’s responses.

Steve Bullock

Steve Bullock Governor of Montana Withdrawn

I support a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict which would provide Israel with security and the Palestinian people with a better future. Under the Trump Administration, efforts to reach a two-state solution have reached a standstill as the U.S. negotiating team does not have credibility with both parties. I would use the fresh start of a new Administration to reinvigorate efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table and consult closely with regional partners whose support would be necessary to implement a final status agreement.

Read all of Steve Bullock’s responses.

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg Former mayor of South Bend, Indiana Withdrawn

Yes, I do support a two-state solution. The US alliance with Israel and support for Israel’s security have long been fundamental tenets of US national security policy, and they will remain so if I am elected President. But this is not a zero-sum game. The security of Israel and the aspirations of the Palestinian people are fundamentally interlinked. To visit the West Bank and Gaza is to understand the fundamental need for a two-state solution which addresses the economic, security and moral rights of both Israelis and of the Palestinians who live there.

I have clearly and strongly stated my support for the security of Israel, and I have also said that I disagree with policies being carried out by the current Israeli administration. This includes overreach in the West Bank and Gaza and short-sighted focus on military responses. The humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza has gone on far too long and provides a ripe environment for the very extremist violence that threatens Israel.

The United States needs to put its arm around the shoulder of its ally, Israel, and help it to develop policies that will work towards the economic and security benefit of both Israel and the Palestinians. Both Israeli and Palestinian citizens should be able to enjoy the freedom to go about their daily lives without fear of rocket attacks or other violence, and to work to achieve economic well-being for their families. A two-state solution that achieves legitimate Palestinian aspirations and meets Israel’s security needs remains the only viable way forward.

Read all of Pete Buttigieg’s responses.

Julian Castro

Julian Castro Former secretary of housing and urban developmentWithdrawn

A two-state solution is the only acceptable outcome of a peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. I believe that only a two-state solution can serve as the foundation of a long-term peace while protecting the dignity, security, and freedom of both the Israeli and Palestinian people. In a global context of rising anti-Semitism, ensuring the Jewish people have a safe and democratic home is more important than ever. I will continue the United States’ policy to defend Israel’s security and its right to exist, which I believe can only be secured through a two-state solution.

President Trump’s failed policies have created serious impediments to achieving the two-state solution. As president, I will resuscitate the peace process that the shortsighted actions of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Trump Administration have derailed. I believe these actions, including President Trump’s willful disregard for the rights of the Palestinians, are neither in the interests of the United States nor productive in achieving a long-term peace in the region. To lead, the United States will need to regain the confidence of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples so that we can serve as a fair arbiter.

This means we must urge Israel to cease settlement construction in Palestinian territory and make clear that we will not recognize any unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank. As president, I would re-establish the U.S. mission in East Jerusalem, which will serve as a precursor to an embassy to a future Palestinian state, and invite the Palestinian people to re-establish their diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C. I will also resume bilateral and multilateral development assistance to the Palestinian people, programs that were terminated by the Trump administration. 

Read all of Julian Castro’s responses.

John Delaney

John Delaney Former representative, MarylandWithdrawn

I do support a two-state solution but do not think it should be the position of the U.S. to predetermine what that agreement looks like. The only way that lasting peace can be achieved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is if there are direct, bilateral negotiations between the two parties. The U.S. president can and should be a facilitator and mediator in helping parties come to an agreement, which we have seen done successfully in the past. To help achieve a successful agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, the U.S. can work with regional partners including Egypt and Jordan to provide stability in the conflict. This includes providing Israel – one of our most important and enduring allies - with the necessary resources to defend themselves while also providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian population to promote human development and humanitarian services such as education and medical services in ways that reach the people directly.

Read all of John Delaney’s responses.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand Senator, New York Withdrawn

Yes. In my trips to Israel and through conversations with U.S. experts and Israeli leaders, I have learned that Israel’s security and the prosperity of both Israelis and Palestinians is best achieved through a peace based on two nations living side by side. But that lasting peace and security can only be achieved by those on the ground, and the U.S. must remain engaged, but balanced, in order to foster direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The Trump administration has dangerously undermined U.S. ability to foster such negotiations. As president, I would seek to restore it by continuing America’s strong relationship with our ally, Israel, ensuring its meaningful military edge allows Israel to defend its people, while at the same time reversing the Trump administration’s damaging policies toward the Palestinians. This means reopening the diplomatic mission to the Palestinians, restoring our USAID presence in the West Bank and restarting USAID programs that President Trump has cut.

Read all of Kirsten Gillibrand’s responses.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris Senator, California Withdrawn

Israel is a critical ally and friend and its security is a top priority.  I absolutely support a two-state solution because it is the best way to ensure the existence of a Jewish, democratic, and secure Israel. Palestinians should be able to govern themselves in their own state, in peace and dignity, just as Israelis deserve a secure homeland for the Jewish people.
While all Americans have an interest in a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the fact remains that peace can only be achieved if the parties themselves come to an agreement. The U.S. can – and should – serve as a constructive partner in the process. Unfortunately, while, in the past, the U.S. has been viewed as an honest broker with a strong desire for peace in the region, Trump’s actions have inflamed tensions in the region, diminished U.S. credibility and influence, and undermined the prospects for peace. As President, I would start by reaffirming the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and prosperity, while simultaneously working to rebuild the broken relationship between the United States and the Palestinians. Among all of our international partners, the U.S. is uniquely positioned to facilitate negotiations toward peace, but for that to have any chance of success, we have to start by re-engaging in honest, respectful dialog with both sides.

Read all of Kamala Harris's responses.

Seth Moulton

Seth Moulton Representative, Massachusetts Withdrawn

Yes, I unequivocally support a two-state solution. Israelis deserve to live in peace and security, and the Palestinian people deserve a state of their own.

Israel is our closest ally in the Middle East and will continue to be. But we cannot continue to support their current right-wing government’s policies that have made a two-state solution virtually impossible. There’s certainly a lot of blame to go around in this conflict, but the Israelis have failed to live up to the standards we demand from our allies, and that needs to change.

Read all of Seth Moulton’s responses.

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke Former representative, TexasWithdrawn

A two-state solution that realizes the aspirations of the Palestinian people and addresses Israel’s legitimate security concerns is the only way to guarantee peace and the human rights and dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians. Our strong relationship with Israel is key to achieving that outcome, and as President, I will support and sustain it. 

Leaders on both sides continue to take steps that make negotiating a two-state solution more difficult, including Netanyahu’s embrace of the far-right in Israel and Abbas’ ineffectual leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Ultimately, peace will require bold and principled leadership from both parties. But the United States also has an indispensable role to play. Far from fulfilling that role, President Trump’s reckless and inflammatory actions have added fuel to the fire. As President, I will leverage the unique position of the United States in the region to cultivate a foundation on which negotiations can take place. That will include holding both sides accountable for unjustified acts of violence, whether it be rocket attacks from Gaza, or disproportionate use of force from Israel. Palestinians and Israelis have the right—and deserve the opportunity—to live lives free from violence and depredation. In my administration, I will prioritize rebuilding the foundation for the best way to achieve that outcome: a two-state solution. 

Read all of Beto O'Rourke responses.

Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick Former governor, Massachusetts Withdrawn

Israel’s right to exist is beyond question.  Israel is also a vital democratic ally in the Middle East.  At the same time, the Palestinians’ right to self-determination within a democratic framework must be acknowledged and addressed.  For that reason, I support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, and would press for that with all of the diplomatic, educational, economic and social leverage available to the United States. Pressing for a two-state arrangement is essential to securing Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state as well as Palestinians’ right to nationhood and an end to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  The United States should be prepared, in coalition with our allies, to guarantee the security of Israel.  We should also be prepared to guarantee the integrity of the negotiated borders of a democratic Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution. 

Independent Israeli and Palestinian sovereignty, during my administration, will form part of a comprehensive strategy in the Middle East that involves defending Israel, countering violent extremism, and promoting economic development and collaboration.  We will work with partners in Iraq and beyond to mend the Sunni-Shia rift.  We must also counter the threat of a nuclear Iran and, through diplomacy, ease tensions around the Gulf.  We will rebuild strategic alliances to win back the ground we have lost against regional adversaries, including ISIS, after President Trump’s damaging decision to withdraw from Syria.  I will also work with Congress to pursue a regional development package to strengthen cross-border ties through new, incentive-driven investment in technology, energy and infrastructure.

Read all of Deval Patrick’s responses.

Tim Ryan

Tim Ryan Representative, Ohio Withdrawn

Yes. There is no moral solution to this dispute that does not involve sovereign territory for both peoples.

First, we must build trust between the parties and that starts with recognition that Israel’s right to exist must be conceded by the Palestinians. The Israelis must then address numerous aspects of its security which have made it harder for Palestinian families to have an upwardly mobile economy. Once trust begins to be rebuilt, then and ONLY then can both sides begin the process of talking.

The current administration’s blatantly one-sided policy has pushed away the Palestinian’s and hardened Israel’s resolve to take a tough stand. One of my first priorities would be to regain the trust of the Palestinians and work to bring them back into the peace process.

Read all of Tim Ryan’s responses.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders Senator, Vermont Withdrawn

Yes, the parameters of that solution are well known. They are based in international law, in multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, and are supported by an overwhelming international consensus: Two states based on the 1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. Ultimately, it’s up to the Palestinians and Israelis themselves to make the choices necessary for a final agreement, but the United States has a major role to play in brokering that agreement. My administration would also be willing to bring real pressure to bear on both sides, including conditioning military aid, to create consequences for moves that undermine the chances for peace.   

Read all of Bernie Sanders’s responses.

Joe Sestak

Joe Sestak Former representative, PennsylvaniaWithdrawn

I support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are no easy solutions to this decades-long conflict, but we must begin by affirmatively re-engaging in the region. We must maintain our steadfast allied support of Israel, but we must also work much harder to be an honest broker and deal fairly with the Palestinians as we lead the brokerage of peace between them. While Israel is our closest ally in the Middle East — and I have worked hard with and on behalf of Israel for decades, both during my time in the Navy and as a Congressman — we must also work to ensure the Palestinian people know that we are committed to a just solution to the conflict. This means returning our embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, because it has always been accepted that this would be part of a two state solution, not a unilateral decision.  It also means restoring humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. But at the same time we must deal with the bias against Israel in key United Nations organizations and make clear that our support for Israel as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people is sacrosanct. While Israel may be safe today, it will not be permanently secure without a peace agreement that includes a two state solution, and that is only possible if outcomes are not decided unilaterally beforehand. Otherwise, the cycle of violence will only continue. The United States is the one indispensable nation that can work with both sides to reach a just peace deal., and only the full weight of the Presidency will be able to bring it about. Our own interests demand it as challenges elsewhere increase – but we must secure Israel’s permanent security to do so, and can only do that with a fair, honestly brokered process.

Read all of Joe Sestak’s responses.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren Senator, Massachusetts Withdrawn

I believe in the worth and value of every Israeli and every Palestinian. The way we respect all parties is through a two-state solution - an outcome that’s good for U.S. interests, good for Israel's security and its future, and good for Palestinian aspirations for dignity and self-determination. To achieve this, there must be an end to the Israeli occupation and the creation of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip living alongside Israel. 

As president, I would take immediate steps to reestablish America’s role as a credible mediator by welcoming the Palestinian General Delegation back to Washington and reopening an American mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem. I would also make clear that in a two-state agreement both parties should have the option to locate their capitals in Jerusalem, as all previous serious plans have acknowledged. We should immediately resume aid to the Palestinians and financial support to UNRWA, and focus real financial and political resources on fixing the man-made humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip. I will oppose incitement to violence and support for terrorism by Palestinian extremists like Hamas. And I will make clear my unequivocal opposition to Israeli settlement activity and to any moves in the direction of annexation of the West Bank. 

Read all of Elizabeth Warren’s responses.

Bill Weld

Bill Weld Former governor, MassachusettsWithdrawn

The question suggests outsiders can “solve” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I think it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to come to an arrangement, and for us to support their efforts. If there is a deal to be made that’s acceptable to both, we should get behind it, but the timing for further negotiations is going to have to be driven by events and by the parties themselves.

Having said all that, I am personally very much in favor of a two-state solution, and I believe, as my friend Shimon Peres always maintained, that multi-state economic development projects and trade are the sinews of peace.

Read all of Bill Weld’s responses.

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson AuthorWithdrawn


The United States should have an equal and simultaneous support for both the legitimate security concerns of Israel, and the human rights, dignity and economic opportunities of the Palestinian people.

I will be a president who listens deeply to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Leaders of the Palestinian Authority will know that I hear them and understand their plight, yet nothing is going to sway me from my commitment to the legitimate security of Israel. Israeli leaders will know that I hear them and understand their plight, yet nothing is going to sway me from my commitment to the human rights, dignity and economic hopes of the Palestinian people. 

I do not believe the settlements on the West Bank are legal. Also, I would rescind the president's affirmation of sovereignty of Israel over the Golan Heights. I understand the occupation of the Golan Heights, but only until there is a stable government in Syria with whom one can negotiate.

According to international law, the occupation of a territory does not give the occupying country a right to annex it. Also, according to international law, the resources of the occupied territory are to be used for the good of those living there. 

I also do not support the blockade of Gaza.

I will use pressure afforded me as president of the United States to exert pressure on Israel to restart talks on a two-state solution.

Read all of Marianne Williamson’s responses.

Andrew Yang

Andrew Yang Entrepreneur Withdrawn

The only acceptable end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict involves a two-state solution that allows both the Israeli and Palestinian people to have sovereign land and self-determination.

Israel has been an important ally to the US, and it will continue to be an important ally. It is a democracy in a region where that is rare. I disagree with some of the policies of the current Israeli administration, but I believe the relationship is fundamentally strong and will continue to be.

I don’t want to prescribe the specifics of a two-state solution, as the Israeli and Palestinian people both need to be leading any conversation, and I look forward to engaging with all stakeholders to come up with confidence-building measures, such as a ceasefire and an end to the expansion of settlements, as we look towards building a sustainable peace. Coming together to provide aid to those suffering in Gaza can also be an opportunity for all parties to work together to handle a humanitarian crisis that is causing untold suffering.

The US should also restore our USAID programs for Palestinians that have been ended by this administration.

Read all of Andrew Yang’s responses.


This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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