Robert Gates says 2-state solution between Israelis, Palestinians "on life support"

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that the consequences of the move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem are "modest" due to the dwindling likelihood of a two-state solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Speaking to CBS News' "Face the Nation," Gates said it remains to be seen if the move could further embolden international tensions, but noted past reluctance in making such a politically fraught change. 

"I think that the reluctance always before -- because as has been pointed out, several previous presidents committed to move the embassy to Jerusalem -- I think the hesitation has been, that it would end any prospect of an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis," Gates told "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan. 

He added, "I think the prospects of an agreement between those two parties, at this point, is so low that the other consequences of moving the embassy are probably more modest than they -- more manageable than they would have been at any time in the past, mainly because the diplomatic connection to the Israeli-Palestinian issue is less important."

Gates said the prospect of a two-state solution to end the long-simmering conflict is "on life support, barely."

The site of the new U.S. embassy is set to formally open on Monday. Signs across Jerusalem thank President Trump for moving the embassy, a formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A ceremony on Monday will take place on the 70th anniversary of Israel's founding.

A delegation from the White House will be on hand: Mr. Trump's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump; her husband and White House adviser Jared Kushner, who previously worked on behalf of the administration to improve Israeli-Palestinian ties; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and White House aide Jason Greenblatt.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, will be leading the congressional delegation to the embassy's opening. Asked by Brennan on "Face the Nation" if the two-state solution was dead, Graham replied: "No, because it can't be." 

"If you had one state that was Jewish in nature, eventually you'd have to have some kind of apartheid where Arabs and Palestinians couldn't vote. Two states means a Jewish state with an Arab component, a Palestinian state living in dignity side-by-side with Israel," Graham said. "The problem is, the Palestinians are divided. You have Hamas controlling Gaza, Palestinian Authority controlling the West Bank, Gaza is a rocket-launching factory against Israel. Until the Palestinians reconcile under one flag, there will never be peace."

Graham will be joined by Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Dean Heller at Monday's embassy opening in Jerusalem.

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital