by: Ilse Posselt
Thursday, 16 February 2017 | The get-together started on an almost sociable note. Prime Minister Netanyahu and American President Donald Trump are, after all, friendly acquaintances and have seen eye-to-eye on a number of issues over the past few years. Yet yesterday’s meeting at the White House in Washington D.C. was the first time Netanyahu and Trump shook hands as world leaders.
Ever since US Press Secretary announced the meeting some two weeks ago, the get-together has been the topic of much speculation, controversy and expectation. Many within Israel and abroad waited in eager anticipation to find out what the two world leaders would discuss, agree about and possibly differ on. Following a joint press conference hosted by Netanyahu and Trump yesterday morning, the wait is over.
International and Israeli media agree that the primary issue emanating from the conference is what The New York Times describes as “President Trump jettison[ing] two decades of diplomatic orthodoxy … by declaring that the United States would no longer insist on the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Backing away from the US’s customary commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Trump is the first American President “to refrain from pledging allegiance to the idea of a two-state paradigm and to open the door to the possibility of alternative ideas to achieve peace between Israeli and Palestinians, as well as, in the wider region,” The Jerusalem Post reports.
“I am looking at two states and one state,” Trump told reporters. “I am very happy with the one that both parties like. I thought for a while the two-state might be easier to do, but honestly … if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, then I am happy with the one they like the best.”
For his part, Netanyahu did not abdicate from his commitment to the idea of two states for two peoples. The prime minister alluded to his continued support for the solution, saying that his opinion on the matter “has not changed” since he discussed the two-state option for the first time in 2009.
The two world leaders continued to hint that there might be a new idea for regional Middle East peace on the horizon. The initiative would capitalize on warming relations between Israel and other Sunni Arab states in the region who had strengthened ties over the past year in response to the Iranian threat.
“We can seize an historic opportunity because for the first time in my lifetime and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but increasingly as an ally,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister continued to explain that the need to seek alternative peace initiatives can be ascribed to the Palestinian Authority’s [PA] blatant refusal to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state as well as its continuous indoctrination of Palestinian youth to hate Jews. “We have to look for new ways, new ideas, on how to reinstate and how to move peace forward,” he held. “And I believe that the great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach from involving our new found Arab partners in the pursuance of a broader peace and peace with the Palestinians.”
Trump echoed Netanyahu’s sentiments, adding that peace with Israel would only be possible once the Palestinians cease indoctrinating their people and inciting violence and terror.
“I think the Palestinians have to get rid of some of that hate that they are taught from a very young age,” Trump said. “They are taught tremendous hate. I have seen what they are taught. It starts at a very young age and it starts in the school room. And they have to acknowledge Israel. They are going to have to do that. There is no way a deal can be made if they are not ready to acknowledge a very, very great and important country. And I think they’re going to be willing to do that also.
Referring to the idea of an alternative approach to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Trump revealed that he had already discussed such plans with Netanyahu. The initiative, he claimed, is “something that is very different that has not been discussed before. And it is actually a much bigger deal—much more important deal in a sense. It would take in many, many countries and would cover a very large territory. We are going to have … other players at a very high level, and I think it might make it easier on both Palestinians and Israel to get something done.”
Aside from the Palestinian issue, the conference also touched on the matter of Iran. Trump undertook to prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear weapon and reiterated his belief that the 2015 nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers is one of the “worst” he has ever witnessed.
“My administration has already imposed new sanctions on Iran, and I will do more to prevent Iran from ever developing—I mean ever—a nuclear weapon” he vowed.
Both world leaders spoke of the other in admiring terms and the press conference resounded with mutual praise. Trump referred to Netanyahu as “my friend,” and hailed the “unbreakable bond with our cherished ally,” Israel.
The US and the Jewish state, he added, enjoyed a relationship based on shared values and a commitment to advancing “the cause of human dignity. American and Israel,” he explained,” are two countries that cherish the value of all human life.”
“I want the Israeli people to know,” Trump assured, “that the United States stands with Israel in the struggle against terrorism.”
Netanyahu added that there is “no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump.”
There was, however, a slight point of strain during the conference, when Trump requested Netanyahu to “hold back” on construction in Judea and Samaria. Looking in Netanyahu’s direction, Trump asked, “Both sides will have to make compromises—you know that, right?”
“The Israelis are going to have to show some flexibility,” he continued. “And I think they will do that.”
The press conference took place ahead of a meeting between the two world leaders that lasted a number of hours. Discussion points on the agenda included the policy positions between Israel and America as well as the main issues in the Middle East, including Iran, Syria, the Islamic State and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Posted on February 16, 2017
Source: (Bridges for Peace, 16 February 2017)
Photo Credit: Benjamin Netanyahu/ Facebook
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