Trump, Netanyahu cement their bonds
President praises Netanyahu, predicts ‘ bigger and better deal’
President Trump, hosting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House on Wednesday for the first time since Trump took office, said it’s up to Israel and the Palestinians to decide on a path to peace, whether it’s one- state or two- state. “I’m happy with the one they like best,” Trump said.
Netanyahu is a “great negotiator. And I think we're going to make a deal.” President Trump
President Trump hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Wednesday for a series of meetings intended to “show there is no daylight” between the leaders.
That includes the “two- state solution” that has been a hallmark of U. S. policy in the Middle East — and a source of friction between the Netanyahu government and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
Trump professed to be agnostic on the policy. “So I’m looking at two- state or the one- state,” Trump said. “I was thinking for a while that the two- state was looking like the easier of the two.”
He concluded that the matter is up to Israel and the Palestinians to decide. “I’m happy with the one they like best,” he said.
The one- state solution would include Israelis and Palestinians in a single, secular country with equal citizenship. The two- state solution calls for a negotiated settlement leading to a Palestinian nation alongside Israel, and it was the U. S. policy under the Bush and Obama administrations.
Netanyahu reasserted his position that a two- state solution can happen only under two conditions: The new Palestinian state must recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and Israel must maintain security control of the West Bank.
He suggested that the very “two- state” label was a hindrance to progress.
“Rather than deal with labels, I’d like to deal with substance,” Netanyahu said.
Trump and Netanyahu appeared to have an easy chemistry, bantering among themselves.
“Bibi and I have known each other a long time — a smart man, great negotiator. And I think
we’re going to make a deal. It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand. That’s a possibility. So let’s see what we do,” Trump said. “Let’s try it,” Netanyahu said. “Doesn’t sound too optimistic, but he’s a good negotiator,” Trump said.
“That’s the Art of the Deal,” the prime minister replied.
Even as the leaders made a public showing of solidarity, the Trump White House has been slow to distance itself from the policies of his predecessors, including:
The location of the U. S. Embassy: A 1995 law requires the president to move the U. S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but every president since has invoked a national security waiver to block the move. Trump has signaled that he wants to end that policy but has moved cautiously.
“I’d love to see that happen. We’re looking at it very, very strongly. We’re looking at it with great care,” Trump said.
The Iran nuclear deal: During the presidential campaign, Trump threatened to “rip up” the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration and five other global powers with Iran to scale down its nuclear program. Even as the Trump administration has leveled new sanctions for Iran’s missile tests, Trump has made no moves to break the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Wednesday, Trump called the agreement “one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen.”
Israeli settlements: In a change in tone this month, the White House responded to Israeli settlements in the West Bank by saying those settlements “may not be helpful” in resolving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
“I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out, but I would like to see a deal be made,” Trump told Netanyahu.
Netanyahu pledged to work with Trump, “so we don’t keep on bumping into each other all the time.”
President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu display an easy personal chemistry during their news conference Wednesday at the White House.