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US-Israel: is Trump backing away from a two-state deal?

US-Israel: is Trump backing away from a two-state deal?
By Catherine Hardy with Reuters, BBC
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US President Donald Trump has welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington for a much-anticipated meeting that observers say could shape the contours of future policy in the Middle

  • Trump and Netanyahu hold first White House talks
  • Trump talked of “major new deal” on Middle East peace
  • Asked Israel to “hold back” on settlement building
  • Says he is “happy with either” a two-or-one state solution
  • Netanyahu urged Palestinians to recognise the state of Israel and give security guarantees

Donald Trump has pledged to work to deliver “really a great peace deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.

Speaking as he welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House, the US president told both sides they would have to make compromises.

He also asked his Israeli counterpart to “hold back on settlements for a little bit”.

When asked whether he preferred a one or two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Mr Trump replied “I can live with either”.

WATCH: President Trump greets Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House

— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 15, 2017

Observers say the talks are critical for clarity on future US policy regarding Israel.

If it's any help, I'm in Washington with Netanyahu and I don't have a sense that anyone has a clear idea what's going on re 2SS, etc.

— Luke Baker (@LukeReuters) February 15, 2017

The two-state solution

The idea of creating a Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel has been a bedrock US position for decades.

However, the last negotiations broke down in 2014.

Indicating a potential policy shift, a senior White House official said on Tuesday that peace does not necessarily have to entail Palestinian statehood.

Donald Trump will not try to “dictate a position”, the official added.

The Guardian front page, Thursday 16.02.17: Trump rips up decades of US policy on Israel

— The Guardian (@guardian) February 15, 2017

What the Palestinians say

Just before Trump and Netanyahu met, a senior Palestinian official revealed that CIA director Mike Pompeo held talks with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday in Ramallah.

“It was the first official meeting with a high-profile member of the American administration since Trump took office,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity and not disclosing details of the discussion.

Husam Zomlot, a strategic adviser to Abbas, said the Palestinians have not received any official indication of a change in the US stance.

However, Palestinians reacted with alarm to the possibility that Washington might ditch its support for an independent Palestinian state.

“If the Trump administration rejects this policy, it would be destroying the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility abroad,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

“Accommodating the most extreme and irresponsible elements in Israel and in the White House is no way to make responsible foreign policy,” she added in a statement.


Since Trump’s inauguration, Israel has announced 5,000 new permits for Israeli settlement units

— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) February 15, 2017

What has Netanyahu said?

Netanyahu committed, with conditions, to the two-state goal in a speech in 2009.

He has broadly reiterated the aim since.

However, he has also spoken of a “state-minus” option, suggesting he could offer the Palestinians deep-seated autonomy and the trappings of statehood without full sovereignty.

The Trump talks will be an opportunity to reset ties after a frequently combative relationship with Barack Obama.


Israeli officials say they want no gaps to emerge between US and Israeli thinking during the scheduled meeting.

“I deeply value your friendship. Israel has no better ally than the US, US has no better ally than Israel,” says netanyahu</a></p>&mdash; Catherine Hardy (fernojay) February 15, 2017

“I welcome your forthright call that Israel is treated fairly in international forums” says netanyahu</a> live <a href="">euronews

— Catherine Hardy (@fernojay) February 15, 2017

“Under your leadership, I believe we can reverse the rising tide of radical Islam” says netanyahu</a> "an historic opportunity"</p>&mdash; Catherine Hardy (fernojay) February 15, 2017

“Arab countries in our region increasingly see Israel as ally, not enemy. Let us seize this moment together,” says netanyahu</a></p>&mdash; Catherine Hardy (fernojay) February 15, 2017

What has Trump said?

Trump’s rhetoric was relentlessly pro-Israel during last year’s election campaign.

He promised to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, backed the ardent settlement supporter David Friedman as his Israeli envoy and saying he would not put pressure on Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians.

He has since toned down his rhetoric.


Trump also appears to have put the embassy move on the back-burner.

There were warnings about the potential for regional unrest.

“The state of Israel is a symbol to the world of resilience in the face of oppression, survival in the face of genocide” realDonaldTrump</a></p>&mdash; Catherine Hardy (fernojay) February 15, 2017

“Security chances faced by Israel enormous. Iran deal is one of worst I have ever seen. Our security assitance to Israel at all time high”

— Catherine Hardy (@fernojay) February 15, 2017

“UN has treated Israel very, very unfairly” realDonaldTrump</a></p>&mdash; Catherine Hardy (fernojay) February 15, 2017

“Peace agreement between Israel, Palestinians. We will encourage really a great peace deal. Very important to me also” realDonaldTrump</a></p>&mdash; Catherine Hardy (fernojay) February 15, 2017

What about the settlements?

The White House has said building new ones or expanding existing ones beyond their current borders would not be helpful to peace.

Analysts are interpreting this as leaving Israel room to build within existing settlements without drawing US condemnation.


Trump says he’ll speak w/ Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements.” Netanyahu replies, “That’s the art of the deal.”

— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 15, 2017

This is the kind of grey area the talks are expected to touch on.

For the Palestinians, and much of the wider world, settlements built on occupied land are illegal under international law.

Israel disputes this but faces increasing criticism from allies.

This has increased after Netanyahu’s recent announcement of plans to build 6,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.


Despite White House warning, Israel pushes settlement bill

— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) February 5, 2017

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