Trump, Ne­tanyahu ce­ment their bonds

Pres­i­dent praises Ne­tanyahu, pre­dicts ‘ big­ger and bet­ter deal’

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Gre­gory Korte and David Jack­son

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.”

WIN MCNAMEE GETTY IM­AGES

MANDEL NGAN, AFP/ GETTY IM­AGES

Pres­i­dent Trump and Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu dis­play an easy per­sonal chem­istry dur­ing their news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day at the White House.

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