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.
The editorials, coming as much of the US media was focused on reported ties between Trump officials and the Kremlin and the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn, suggested that Trump’s pullback from the two-state solution had managed to hoist the issue near the top of a list of concerns for many in the US.
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 said the two have been discussing a regional deal, and noted it “would take in many many countries.”
The comments came amid renewed speculation that Sunni Arab states would be prepared to work with Israel in light of regional opposition to Iran.
A New York Times editorial called Trump‘s statement “nonsensical” and “dangerous.”
“He offered no details on any peace initiative, and the vagueness of his remarks suggests he has no inkling of how to move forward. His willingness, however, to lend credence to those who would deny a separate state to the Palestinians will certainly make peace harder to achieve,” the editorial board wrote.
“Given what Mr. Trump said on Wednesday, there is less reason than ever to believe that he can succeed where so many other presidents have failed,” the editorial concluded.
The Washington Post described Trump’s shift in policy as “a dangerous retreat” that made the chances for peace even less likely “and increased the chances that one of the few relatively peaceful corners of the region will return to conflict.”
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.
Australia’s foreign minister expressed tentative support for US President Donald Trump’s rollback of support for the two-state solution, even as her country and the international community vowed to keep pushing for the Palestinian statehood formula.
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.
“The two sides need to sit down and negotiate a resolution – it can’t be imposed from outside,” Bishop told Sky News Australia on Thursday.
Asked her view on the one-state versus two-state ideas, Bishop said if there was “another solution that they were prepared to live with, that ensured the Israelis and Palestinians could live side by side, together, between internationally recognized boundaries, then of course the world should support that.”
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!
So what can we take away from Wednesday’s Netanyahu-Trump summit?
A lot. His interlocutor on Wednesday, Netanyahu, has a more evolved reputation for consistency — indeed, for coherence. And despite Trump’s famous capacity for peregrinations of thought, he offered enough substance in his remarks – for instance, confirming a pivot in US policy away from an emphasis on a two-state solution as an outcome to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
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 was like the proverbial kid in the candy shop: He couldn’t have made it clearer his relief at the departure of president Barack Obama.
“I think that’s a change that is clearly evident since President Trump took office,” Netanyahu said at the joint press conference, referring to Trump’s tough talk on Iran. “I welcome that. I think it’s — let me say this very openly: I think it’s long overdue.”
And not just regarding Iran. Whereas, with Obama, Netanyahu would insist peace talks must take place without preconditions, he was now talking about “prerequisites for peace” with the Palestinians.
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.
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