US/IS­RAEL

– Trump charts new Mideast course

Medicine Hat News - - FRONT PAGE -

Chart­ing a strik­ing new course for the Mid­dle East, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day with­held clear sup­port for an in­de­pen­dent Pales­tine and de­clared he could en­dorse a one-na­tion so­lu­tion to the long and deep dis­pute be­tween Pales­tini­ans and Is­rael.

The Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, sig­nalling a new era of comity be­tween the U.S. and Is­rael af­ter rocky re­la­tions un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, said he was more in­ter­ested in an agree­ment that leads to peace than in any par­tic­u­lar path to get there. Stand­ing be­side Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, Trump broke not only with re­cent U.S. pres­i­dents but also dis­tanced the United States from the pre­vail­ing po­si­tion of much of the world.

While Trump urged Ne­tanyahu to “hold off” on Jewish set­tle­ment con­struc­tion in ter­ri­tory the Pales­tini­ans claim for their fu­ture state, he of­fered un­wa­ver­ing sup­port for Is­rael, a pledge he ap­peared to sub­stan­ti­ate with his vague com­ments about the shape of any agree­ment.

While it once ap­peared that a two-state so­lu­tion was the “eas­ier of the two” op­tions for the Pales­tini­ans and Is­rael, Trump said he’d be open to al­ter­na­tives. “I’m look­ing at two-state and on­es­tate, and I like the one that both par­ties like,” he told re­porters. “I can live with ei­ther one.”

The United States has for­mally backed the two-state so­lu­tion as of­fi­cial pol­icy since 2002, when Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush said in the White House Rose Gar­den that his vi­sion was “two states, liv­ing side by side in peace and se­cu­rity.”

In prac­tice, the U.S. al­ready had em­braced the pol­icy in­for­mally. Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, who over­saw the Oslo Ac­cords in the 1990s that were en­vi­sioned as a step­ping stone to Pales­tinian state­hood, said be­fore leav­ing of­fice that res­o­lu­tion to the con­flict re­quired a vi­able Pales­tinian state.

Separately on Wed­nes­day, Pales­tinian leader Mah­moud Ab­bas called on Ne­tanyahu to end set­tle­ment build­ing and ex­pressed “will­ing­ness to re­sume a cred­i­ble peace process “Also on Wed­nes­day, CIA chief Mike Pom­peo se­cretly held talks in the West Bank with Ab­bas, the first high-level meet­ing be­tween the Pales­tinian leader and a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, se­nior Pales­tinian of­fi­cials said. The White House wouldn’t com­ment on the meet­ing

All se­ri­ous peace ne­go­ti­a­tions in re­cent decades have as­sumed the emer­gence of an in­de­pen­dent Pales­tine. The al­ter­na­tives ap­pear to of­fer dim­mer prospects for peace, given Pales­tinian de­mands for state­hood. Dozens of coun­tries, in­clud­ing the U.S., reaf­firmed their sup­port for a two-state ac­cord at an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence in Paris last month, be­fore Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion.

In Cairo on Wed­nes­day, U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said: “There is no Plan B to the sit­u­a­tion be­tween Pales­tini­ans and Is­raelis but a two-state so­lu­tion . ... Every­thing must be done to pre­serve that pos­si­bil­ity.”

At one point Wed­nes­day, Trump noted the need for com­pro­mise in achiev­ing any Mideast peace. Ne­tanyahu in­ter­jected: “Both sides.”

AP PHOTO PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu par­tic­i­pate in a joint news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day in the East Room of the White House.

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