US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he was prepared to accept any peace formula acceptable to Israel and Palestine, discarding a decades-old US policy advocating a two-state solution.
“I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said, addressing a joint news briefing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. “I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.”
A two-state solution, with a Jewish Israel and Arab Palestine co-existing side by side, has been the stated policy of the United States for almost two decades now, and is favoured as the best possible solution by other powers and world bodies.
Though Trump didn’t detail his reasons, a senior White House officials had told reporters earlier the administration was looking at peace as the goal and not the peace formula to get there. “A two-state solution that doesn’t bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve.”
Netanyahu himself has publicly endorsed it, even while he has aggressively pushed for expanding Israeli settlements in occupied areas, which led extremely frosty relations with former US President Barack Obama.
Trump also indicated he expected Israel to hold off on settlements. “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit,” he said, adding it could be a deal that will be “bigger and better” than “most people in the room can understand”.
The Israeli leader replied guardedly, “Let’s try it.” But he pushed later in response to direct questions: “I believe that the issue of the settlements is not the core of the conflict, nor does it really drive the conflict. I think it’s an issue, it has to be resolved in the context of peace negotiations.”
Perhaps mindful of his differences with Obama on the issue that had marred their relationship, Netanyahu said, “And I think we also are going to speak about it, President Trump and I, so we can arrive at an understanding so we don’t keep on bumping into each other all the time on this issue.”
Trump has promised to improve ties with Israel and has vowed to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv, where all countries including India have their missions, to Jerusalem, parts of which are claimed by Palestine. He has said he plans to appoint his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a New York real-estate magnate, to drive his Middle-East policy.
Trump’s nominee for ambassador to Israel, David M Friedman, is a lawyer who identifies with hardliners in Israel, questions the two-state solution, backs news settlements and has said that he looks forward to working from the US embassy in Jerusalem.
But when asked about his timeline for the relocation, Trump was evasive at the presser: “I’d love to see that happen. We’re looking at it very, very strongly. We’re looking at it with great care — great care, believe me. And we’ll see what happens.
Trump also repeated his opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement, calling it “one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen” adding, “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.”