Trump, Ne­tanyahu meet

Trump urges Is­raeli premier to ‘hold off’ on set­tle­ments


WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day asked Is­rael’s prime min­is­ter to “hold off ” on build­ing Jewish set­tle­ments in land the Pales­tini­ans claim for their fu­ture state, yet held back from ex­plic­itly en­dors­ing sup­port for a fu­ture in­de­pen­dent Pales­tine.

Af­ter weeks of danc­ing around the is­sue of ex­panded Is­raeli set­tle­ments, Trump made the re­quest to Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu at a joint news con­fer­ence at the White House pre­ced­ing their pri­vate dis­cus­sions. It is Ne­tanyahu’s first trip to Wash­ing­ton since Trump be­came pres­i­dent.

While Trump’s call echoed that of past U.S. pres­i­dents, who’ve con­sid­ered Is­raeli hous­ing con­struc­tion in east Jerusalem and the West Bank an ob­sta­cle to a Mideast peace deal, the Amer­i­can leader broke with his pre­de­ces­sors on the idea of a two-state agree­ment. While such an ac­cord may have once ap­peared to be the “eas­ier of the two” op­tions, Trump said he’d be open to al­ter­na­tives if the two sides pro­pose some­thing bet­ter.

The two lead­ers were to dis­cuss peace ef­forts as well as Iran and Trump’s cam­paign pledge to move the U.S. Em­bassy in Is­rael from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Re­lo­cat­ing the em­bassy would sig­nal Amer­i­can recog­ni­tion of Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal, a move that would in­fu­ri­ate Pales­tini­ans. They claim the eastern sec­tor of the city, cap­tured by Is­rael in the 1967 war, as their cap­i­tal.

Trump said Wed­nes­day he’d like to see the em­bassy moved but that he is study­ing the is­sue closely.

Amer­i­can pres­i­dents have struck a del­i­cate bal­ance in ad­dress­ing the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, stress­ing the close U.S. friend­ship with Is­rael and lav­ish­ing the Jewish state with boun­ti­ful aid. But re­cent pres­i­dents also have called out Is­rael for ac­tions seen as un­der­min­ing peace ef­forts, such as ex­pand­ing set­tle­ments.

On Tues­day, a se­nior White House of­fi­cial said Trump is ea­ger to be­gin fa­cil­i­tat­ing a peace deal be­tween the two sides and hopes to bring them to­gether soon.

It will be up to the Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans to de­ter­mine what peace will en­tail, said the of­fi­cial, who was not au­tho­rized to pub­licly dis­cuss the lead­ers’ ses­sion be­fore it took place and spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity. Peace, not a two-state solution, is the goal, the of­fi­cial said.

State Depart­ment of­fi­cials said they were not aware of any pol­icy shift on the de­sir­abil­ity of an agree­ment es­tab­lish­ing an in­de­pen­dent Pales­tine side-by-side with Is­rael — long the bedrock of U.S. pol­icy in the re­gion.

Three of­fi­cials said the depart­ment was seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion from the White House’s com­ments, which came as Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son was hav­ing din­ner with Ne­tanyahu on Tues­day. The of­fi­cials spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly.


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

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