Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trump in first summit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both declined to commit to the internationally accepted recipe of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Wednesday, a diplomatic shift for both governments that could signal a realignment of the traditional peace process.
At a joint news conference ahead of their first White House summit, Trump said he would support whatever solution the Israelis and Palestinians wanted.
"I'm looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like," Trump said. "I can live with either one."
Netanyahu dodged the question.

For years, the United States and most of its allies advocated the vision of two states, one Israeli and one Palestinian, living side by side as the basis for lasting peace in the region.
Trump now has backed away from that commitment, raising questions about how officials would draw up a peace plan.
Trump did criticize, albeit mildly, Israel's rapid expansion of housing settlements in the occupied West Bank, land claimed by the Palestinians.
Asked about the settlements, Trump turned to Netanyahu, standing at a lectern beside him, and said, "I'd like to see you hold back on settlements a little bit."
Netanyahu looked surprised and countered that settlements could be discussed as part of a final peace deal, but he added they were "not the core of the conflict."
Trump also was asked about his campaign pledge to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move considered provocative because both Israel and the Palestinians claim the city as their capital.
Trump said he was thinking about it "very carefully" but would not commit to a move date.
Trump and Netanyahu seemed on the same page on other topics.
Both were critical of the landmark deal, negotiated by six world powers and Iran in 2015, that eased sanctions on Tehran in exchange for destroying or freezing Iran's nuclear development programs. But Trump did not repeat his campaign promise to "rip up" the deal.
Netanyahu strongly defended Trump when asked about the xenophobic and anti-Semitic sentiments unleashed by some of his supporters during the presidential race last year.
"There is no greater friend of Israel," Netanyahu said of Trump, then singled out Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a lifelong family friend.
Kushner, a 36-year-old observant Jew with no formal diplomatic experience, has been tapped by Trump to lead negotiations with Israel and the Palestinians.
Both Trump and Netanyahu said they were finding that several Arab countries now see Iran and radical Islam as enemies worth joining forces to fight, instead of seeing Israel as the primary enemy.
In contrast to the often-chilly joint appearances that Netanyahu had with President Obama, the Israeli leader's arrival on the south steps of the White House was full of smiles, kisses and warm handshakes shared by the two leaders and their wives.
"Our alliance has always been strong, but under your leadership, it will be even stronger," Netanyahu said.

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