January 19, 2018

Alters long-standing US support for a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel with just one comment

Friday, February 17, 2017

President backs away from two-state solution

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump backed away Wednesday from long-standing US support for the idea of a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel, potentially signalling the death of a fundamental strategy of past Middle East peace negotiations, even as Trump said he wants to try his hand at a new deal.

Trump appeared to open the negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their news conference at the White House, directly calling for Israel to curtail Jewish home-building in the West Bank.

In his most extensive remarks as president about the chances for peace in the Middle East, Trump said he “could live with” either a separate Palestinian state or a unitary state as a peaceful outcome. “I want the one that both parties want,” he said.

That is a significant departure from past US policy supporting the goal of an independent Palestine. Republican and Democratic presidents have backed a future Palestine on West Bank land that is now mostly under Israeli military occupation. For years, US officials have endorsed “two states for two peoples, living side by side in peace and security.”

“I’'d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit,” Trump said as he welcomed Netanyahu for their first meeting since the Republican president took office. “We’ll work something out,” he added.

The new US president confidently predicted that he will help broker an end to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I would like to see a deal be made. I think a deal will be made,” Trump said. “I know that every president would like to. Most of them have not started until late, because they never thought it was possible. And it wasn’t possible, because they didn’t do it.”

Trump gave no timetable for the effort but suggested it will come soon as he flattered Netanyahu.

“Bibi and I have known each other a long time,” Trump continued, using the Israeli leader’s nickname. “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, so that’s a possibility.”

Both leaders seemed to indicate that what was once an accepted formula of two sovereign states is now open to a broader scope of ideas about what could bring about a peace deal. They each pointed to a regional approach that would involve a broad spectrum of Middle Eastern states and by default, eventually, the Palestinians.

Netanyahu said that first the Palestinians must recognise Israel as the Jewish state and stop calling for its destruction. He insisted that Israel retain security of the western banks of the Jordan River, a sliver of land that would allow Israel to encircle any future Palestinian state.

“We believe undermining the two-state solution is not a joke,” responded Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian official and former peace negotiator. “It’s a disaster and a tragedy for Israelis and Palestinians.”

— Herald with Washington Post

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