Trump asks Netanyahu to hold off on settlements, avoids endorsing two-state solution
US President Donald Trump has called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pause settlement expansion in order to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians, but he would not indicate commitment to a two-state solution.
“The United States will encourage a peace and really a great peace deal” between Israel and the Palestinians, but they have to negotiate it themselves, Trump said at a joint press conference with Netanyahu in Washington, DC on Wednesday.“Both sides will have to make compromises.”
“I want the Israeli people to know that the US stands with Israel in the struggle against terrorism, ”the US president added, calling Israel a “cherished ally.”
“Israel has no better ally than the US,” Netanyahu said, “and the US has no better ally than Israel.”
The Israeli PM praised Trump’s commitment to resist “slander and boycotts” of his country in international bodies, and said both Israel and the US are under attack “by one malevolent force – radical Islamic terrorism.”
Asked if he preferred a one-state or a two-state solution, Trump said, “I’m happy with the one they like the best,” referring to both Israelis and the Palestinians.
“I’d like to see you hold off on settlements for a little bit,” he told Netanyahu, and said the US was “looking with great care” at relocating the embassy to Jerusalem, thus recognizing Israel’s claim to the city as its capital.
Israel had two prerequisites for any peace settlement, Netanyahu said. “First, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state, they must stop calling for Israel’s destruction… Second, Israel must retain security control over all of the area west of the Jordan River.”
If those requirements are not met, Palestine would become “another failed state, another Islamist dictatorship that will not work for peace, but work to destroy us,” Netanyahu said.
Asked what compromises the two sides might have to make, Trump said the Israelis “will have to show some flexibility” and signal they want to make a deal, while “Palestinians have to give up some of the hate they’ve been taught from a very young age.”
Netanyahu also criticized the nuclear deal the six world powers had reached with Iran in 2015, accusing Tehran of wanting to build a nuclear arsenal – “a hundred bombs” – and intercontinental missiles that could reach the US.
Iranian ballistic missiles are inscribed with “Israel must be destroyed” in Hebrew, Netanyahu said, adding that he welcomed the Trump administration’s determination to make Iran pay for “fomenting terrorism” in the Middle East.
Efforts by the Trump administration to review the nuclear deal were spearheaded by National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, but he resigned on Monday amid accusations that he’d misled administration officials about his talks with Russian diplomats during the transition.
Trump called Flynn a “wonderful man… treated very unfairly by the media,” but did not address the question of how his resignation would affect the administration’s relations with Iran.
When an Israeli reported asked Trump about the alleged uptick in anti-Semitism and xenophobia following his election, the US president said he would do everything in his power to unify the country, and that his term in office would see “a lot of love.”
“There is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump,” Netanyahu said, concluding the press conference.