Leading US newspapers took US President Donald Trump to task on Thursday over his comments the day before in which he declared that the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not be the only way forward and that he was prepared to consider other options — including a one-state formula — if it was accepted by the two sides.
In a barrage of editorials, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times described Trump’s statements as “nonsensical,” the idea of a one state solution as “absurd” and said that by withdrawing from decades-old US policy the president was instead increasing the chances of violent conflict.
Standing alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference in the White House before the two men met on Wednesday, Trump had bucked America’s longstanding commitment to a two-state solution.
“I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he said, showing receptiveness to Netanyahu’s call for a regional initiative that relied on Israel’s improving relationships with Arab countries.
Trump, by adopting a regional plan initiative that bypasses the Palestinians, is being “naive” and is setting himself up for “diplomatic failure,” the paper wrote.
The LA Times said that Trump had “demolished” the two-state solutionand described the idea of Israelis and Palestinians agreeing to a one-state solution as “absurd.”
“A single state that would be agreeable to both sides isn’t the ‘ultimate deal’ of Trump’s imaginings; it’s the ultimate fantasy,” the newspaper said.
Julie Bishop said that while her country still supports the two-state idea, she would be open to a one-state agreement as well if that is what the sides desired, echoing Trump’s Wednesday statement of amenability to whatever Israelis and Palestinians decided on.
When challenged that the one-state scheme is rejected by the Palestinians, Bishop responded that “what we need is for the Palestinians to recognize that the State of Israel exists and will continue to exist.”
When US President Donald Trump met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — What a press conference!
Trump is not endorsing a single state – he’s kicking it back to the parties: Figure it out, Trump says. Trump’s three predecessors have also said that the final status must be determined by the Israelis and the Palestinians, but also have made clear that the only workable outcome is two states,
What’s the difference? Netanyahu, in his remarks and briefing Israeli reporters after his three-hour summit with Trump, indicated that the difference is leverage for Israel: If the Palestinians want their own state, it must adhere to Israel’s terms.
Netanyahu has always said that he believes a Palestinian state should recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and that it must be demilitarized and accept Israeli security control of the West Bank. Until now, those were his preferred outcomes; on Wednesday, he attached a new descriptor to those terms: “prerequisites.” That leaves little wiggle room for the Palestinians.
He, notably, also did not use the term “two states” and refused to afterward in his briefing with reporters. He said instead that others, including former vice president Joe Biden, have cautioned him that a state deprived of security control is less than a state. Instead of pushing back against the argument, he said it was a legitimate interpretation, but not the only one.
That relieves pressure from Netanyahu’s right flank in Israel, which has pressed him to seize upon the transition from the Obama administration – which insisted on two states and an end to settlement – to the Trump administration, and expand settlement. Now he can go home and say, truthfully, that he has removed “two states” from the vocabulary.
Netanyahu told Israeli reporters that he also asked Trump to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory, a request that would have been politely ignored had he raised it with any of Trump’s predecessors. He was clearly hopeful about his prospects with Trump; the president was “not shocked” by the request, he said.