Washington, Feb 16: U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday distanced from a longstanding commitment of the States to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the bedrock of Washington’s Middle East policy, even as he urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to curb settlement construction.
In the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders, the Republican President backed away from a U.S. embrace of the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, upending a position taken by successive administrations and the international community.
“I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like,” Trump told a joint news conference with Netanyahu. “I can live with either one.”
Trump vowed to work toward a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians but said it would require compromise on both sides, leaving it up to the parties themselves ultimately to decide on the terms of any agreement.
This is a significant departure from past U.S. policy supporting the goal of an independent Palestine. Republican and Democratic presidents have backed a future Palestine on West Bank land that is now under Israeli military occupation. For years, U.S. officials have endorsed “two states for two peoples, living side by side in peace and security” as a matter of course.
Dropping a bombshell on Netanyahu as they faced reporters just before sitting down for talks, Trump told him: “I'd like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
Netanyahu insisted that Jewish settlements were “not the core of the conflict” and made no public commitment to reduce settlement building in the occupied West Bank. He later told reporters traveling with him that he hoped to "reach an understanding" with Trump on settlements.
Trump echoed Netanyahu’s calls for Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state – something they have refused to do – and to halt incitement against Israelis.
But even as Trump promised to pursue peace, saying "it might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand," he made no effort to address the deep distrust and other obstacles that have prevented any substantive negotiations since 2014.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on a visit to the United States since the Valentine's Day to renew the US-Israel bond after eight strained years during the Obama administration.