As Netanyahu visits, a big policy shift looms

President Donald Trump broke with decades of American foreign policy by sidestepping a commitment to an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution in a joint news conference with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

"So I'm looking at two-state, and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like".

To end the conference, Netanyahu closed with the statement that, "There is no greater supporter for the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump".

Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the United Nations, echoed that theme in NY, saying the US still supports a two-state solution, but that Trump is looking for fresh ideas and "thinking outside the box". "Our alliance has been remarkably strong, but under your leadership, I'm confident that we'll get even stronger". It will be up to the Israelis and Palestinians to determine what peace will entail, said the official. Question now is what kind of one state: "apartheid or equality". Netanyahu and his coalition do not agree to one state, they won't live with Palestinians - Jews, Christians and Muslims living in one secular democratic state - and they reject the two-state solution. But in recent years, he's spoken more favorably of a "state minus" option - one that would provide Palestinians some limited form of autonomy while maintaining Israeli "security control" over the West Bank.

However, it has not reacted to the expanding of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, considered illegal according to worldwide law, other than by verbal admonitions.

On this visit Mr Netanyahu backed away, gingerly, from his previous demand that America tear up a deal brokered by the Obama administration and other world powers to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home, the party most closely identified with the West Bank settler movement, was delighted with the outcome of the White House talks.

In response to Trump's request to "hold off on settlements for a while" in pursuit of a peace deal, Netanyahu simply said, "We'll try", adding, "That's the art of the deal".

"It's going against UN Security Council resolutions; it's going against the agreed position of the global community".

And that such a "two state solution" was the only hope for a long-term and lasting settlement.

The 2012 Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state in exchange for recognition of Israel by Arab States, is also based on two states.

"The alternative will not and can not be one state, two systems".

Trump also addressed his campaign promise to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in what would amount to a symbolic and politically-charged act. I think a lot of good things are happening, and you're going to see a lot of love. We are looking at it very very strongly.

"Really, I was stunned", said Jeremy Burton of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. "Let's see what happens".

The official said that under the Trump administration, "The posture that the US takes at the United Nations under this administration would be to veto anything that is biased against Israel".

  • Joey Payne