President Donald Trump has dropped decades-old U.S. policy insisting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his first press conference with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Trump said a “great” peace deal would be delivered, but both sides needed to compromise for it.
There have been no substantive peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians since 2014.
Mr. Trump also asked PM Netanyahu to “hold back” settlement building for a “little bit.” Thousands of new homes in West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements have been approved by Israel since Mr. Trump took office.
Israel is hoping for better relations with the U.S. after eight years of friction with the Obama administration. In the press conference on Wednesday, both the leaders refrained from mentioning explicitly an independent future Palestinian state, a long-standing bedrock of U.S. policy.
What is the two-state solution?
The two-state solution is a declared goal of the leadership and the international community to decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is a shorthand of an independent future Palestinian state created within pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, and West Bank, living peacefully with Israel.
All the international organizations and key players in global politics, including U.S. routinely restate their commitment to the solution.
Mr. Trump, however, stated:
“So I’m looking at two states and one state. And I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.”
Mr. Trump had promised during the election campaign to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step that could have grave implications for the peace negotiations. He reiterated his stance in the press conference when asked about moving the embassy.
“As far as the embassy moving to Jerusalem, I’d love to see that happen.”
He also added the U.S. was looking at the situation “strongly” and with “great care.”
Mr. Netanyahu said that he wanted to focus on “substance” and not “label” when asked about the two-state solution. This is what he had to say:
“There are two prerequisites for peace. First, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state. Second, in any peace agreement, Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River.”
Reuters News Agency meanwhile reported that the Palestinian presidency stressed its commitment to the two-state solution and insisted an end to the Israeli occupation. Palestinian officials had earlier urged the White House not to abandon the concept of a Palestinian state. The presidency said that it was willing to “deal positively” with President Trump and that he agreed with Mr. Trump’s call to halt settlement building.
Both Republican and Democratic administrations have backed the two-state solution for decades; a retreat would upend the deep-rooted policy.
There are around 140 settlements in which around 600,000 Jews live; the settlements were built after Israel’s occupation of West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967. The settlements are considered illicit under international law, a fact disputed by Israel.