US President Donald Trump on Wednesday
halted Washington's quest for a two-state
solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, saying he would back a single
state if it led to peace.
The new president warmly welcomed
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
to the White House and hailed the
"unbreakable" bond between their countries.
And -- while he urged Netanyahu to "hold
back" from building Jewish settlements for a
"little bit" -- Trump broke with the
international consensus insisting on a
"So I'm looking at two-state and
one-state, and I like the one that both
parties like. I'm very happy with the one
that both parties like. I can live with
either one," he said.
AFP / Thomas SAINT-CRICQ, Laurence
SAUBADUTen countries receiving the most US
"I thought for a while the two-state
looked like it may be the easier of the two
but, honestly, if Israel and the
Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the
one they like the best."
This change in the US stance was
calculated to please Netanyahu and his
right-wing coalition, and Trump's views on
the shortcomings of the Palestinian position
will delight them.
"I think the Palestinians have to get rid
of some of that hate that they're taught
from a very young age," he said, echoing
Netanyahu's argument that the Palestinians
are not ready for peace.
AFP / AHMAD
GHARABLIPalestinian chief negotiator and
Secretary General of the Palestine
Liberation Organisation, Saeb Erekat, speaks
in the West Bank city of Jericho on February
Netanyahu had warm words for the
Israeli-US alliance, and hammered home his
own prerequisites for peace.
"First, the Palestinians must recognize
the Jewish state. They have to stop calling
for Israel's destruction," he said.
"Second, in any peace agreement, Israel
must retain the overriding security control
over the entire area west of the Jordan
River," he added.
This region contains the entire West Bank
area that would represent the heart of any
Palestinian state as conceived in all
previous international agreements.
- Arab capitals -
The previous US administration of Barack
Obama had warned Israel that if it did not
reach a two-state deal with the
Palestinians, it would never reach an
accommodation with the Arab world.
But Netanyahu insisted he was already
developing closer security ties with his
Sunni neighbors, who share Israel's concerns
about Iranian subversion and "radical
And he urged Trump's administration to get
"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," he told Trump.
AFP / SAUL
LOEBUS President Donald Trump (C-R) and
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
along with their wives, First Lady Melania
Trump (R) and Sara Netanyahu (L), hold a
meeting in the Oval Office of the White
House on February 15, 2017
"I believe that under your leadership,
this change in our region creates an
unprecedented opportunity to strengthen
security and advance peace."
But whatever the view in Cairo and in
Riyadh, the change in the US position, which
was revealed overnight by a White House
official, triggered Palestinian despair and
consternation in international capitals.
The second-ranking official in the
Palestine Liberation Organization, Saeb
Erekat, denounced it as an attempt to "bury
the two-state solution and eliminate the
state of Palestine."
And he implicitly warned Israelis that
any single state that emerged would not be a
specifically Jewish nation.
"There's only one alternative," he told a
news conference. "A single democratic state
that guarantees the rights of all: Jews,
Muslims and Christians."
- Victory cry -
The new US message deliberately echoed
the long-standing Israeli position: No peace
deal can be imposed from outside and the
agenda for talks must reflect the reality on
Naftali Bennett, the right-wing leader of
the hardline Jewish Home party and an
opponent of any Palestinian state, cried
AFP / Brendan
SmialowskiTrump Senior Advisor Jared Kushner
(R) arrives at the State Department for
dinner with US Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson and Israel's Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu on February 14, 2017
"A new era. New ideas. No need for third
Palestinian state beyond Jordan and Gaza.
Big day for Israelis and reasonable Arabs.
Congrats," he tweeted.
But Trump's decision flew in the face of
an international consensus that any final
status agreement must be based on a return
to Israel's 1967 border -- albeit with land
Just five days before Trump's January 20
inauguration, Obama's outgoing US
administration was among 70 countries to
endorse this vision at a peace conference in
And just a month before that, Obama's
ambassador to the United Nations allowed a
Security Council motion that criticized
Israeli settlement building to pass without
the usual US veto.
Addressing a US-Israeli conference in
December, the then secretary of state John
Kerry called settlements a "barrier" to
Under Trump, that vision appears dead,
and Washington has aligned itself with
Netanyahu's government and its supporters in
the right-wing settler movement.
Speaking in Cairo after talks with
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, UN
chief Antonio Guterres warned that
"everything must be done" to preserve the
France, which organized the January peace
conference, was also unimpressed.
Its ambassador to the UN, Francois
Delattre, told reporters "our commitment to
the two-state solution is stronger than
Trump has tapped son-in-law Jared Kushner
and lawyer Jason Greenblatt to lead peace
Kushner had dinner with Netanyahu -- a
long-time family friend -- and US Secretary
of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday night and
attended the White House news conference
with his wife Ivanka Trump.