Netanyahu, Trump avoid two-state solution commitments

Although both Trump and Netanyahu avoided making any clear support for the two-state solution, Trump called for Israel to “hold off on settlements for a little bit.”

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened up their remarks during a joint press conference on Wednesday, expressing a profound friendship with one another individually and on the national level.

“Today I have the honor of welcoming my friend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House,” said Trump, while opening up his remarks. “With his visit, the United States reaffirms our unbreakable bond with our cherished ally, Israel.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replied to Trump in a similar manner.

“Israel has no better ally than the United States and I want to assure you, the US has no better ally than Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Our alliance has been remarkably strong, but under your leadership, I am confident it will get even stronger. I look forward to working with you to dramatically upgrade our alliance in every field.”

“Our administration is committed towards working with Israel and our common allies in the region towards greater security and stability,” Trump noted. “That includes working towards a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The United States will encourage a peace and really a great peace deal, but it is the parties themselves who must directly negotiate such an agreement.”

Trump stressed that such an agreement would necessitate both Israel and the Palestinians each making compromises.

“As with any successful negotiation, both sides will have to make compromises,” Trump said.

Netanyahu also reiterated his support for a peace agreement with the Palestinians but stressed that the Palestinians must accept two preconditions before Israel can accede to any agreement.

“Rather than deal with labels, I want to deal with substance,” said Netanyahu.

There are two prerequisites for peace that I laid out several years ago, and they haven’t changed,” he continued. “The Palestinians must first recognize the Jewish state, they have to stop calling for Israel’s destruction. They have to stop educating their people for Israel’s destruction.”

“Second, in any peace agreement, Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River because if we don’t we know what will happen, because otherwise, we’ll get another radical Islamic terrorist state in the Palestinian areas, exploding the peace, exploding the Middle East,” Netanyahu added. “Unfortunately, the Palestinians vehemently reject both prerequisites to peace.”

Netanyahu also called for alternative and newer pathways in the direction of achieving a final peace agreement.

“We have to look for new ways and new ideas on how to move peace forward,” Netanyahu suggested. “And I believe the great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach, involving our new Arab partners in the pursuit of a broader peace and a peace with the Palestinians.”

Trump appeared to give at least tacit approval to Netanyahu’s idea of adopting a regional approach to solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“I think it’s a terrific thing and I think we have pretty good cooperation from people that in the past would never ever have thought about doing that,” said Trump adding that “I think our new concept that we’ve been discussing is something that allows them to show more flexibility than they have in the past because you have a lot bigger canvass to play with.”

Trump unequivocally backed Netanyahu’s two preconditions for the Palestinians.

“I think the Palestinians have to get rid of some of that hate that they’re taught from a very young age,” Trump stressed. “I’ve seen what they’re taught. It starts at a very young age. And it starts in the schoolroom.”

“The (Palestinians) have to acknowledge Israel,” continued Trump. “There’s no way a deal can be made unless they ready to acknowledge a very important country.”

Responding to a question, Trump also called for a minor and temporary halt on Israel’s part regarding new construction in Judea and Samaria, very succinctly asking that Israel “hold off on settlements for a little bit.”

At the same time, unlike his predecessors, Trump did not explicitly demand a two-state solution.

“I’m looking at two state and one state, and I like the one that both parties like,” said Trump. “I could live with either one. I thought for a while the 2 state looked like it may be the easier of the two, but honestly if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

Trump added that “as far as the embassy moving to Jerusalem, I’d love to see that happen.”

Netanyahu who was also asked whether he would commit to the two-state solution as he did in 2009, noticeably avoided giving a direct answer. Instead, he touched upon his previously stated case that “settlements” were not the main issue in the conflict.

“I believe that the issue of the settlements is not the core of the conflict nor does it really drive the conflict,” Netanyahu commented. “I think it is an issue that has to be resolved in the context of peace negotiations.”

Netanyahu also hinted that Israel’s policy on “settlements” would be coordinated with the Trump administration.

“We’re also gonna speak about it, President Trump and I so that we can arrive at an understanding so that we don’t keep bumping into each other,” he said.

By: Jonathan Benedek, World Israel News