THE WHITE HOUSE — President Donald Trump committed to a strong U.S.-Israel partnership Wednesday in his first meeting as president with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Unlike his predecessors, the president said he was willing to embrace a variety of solutions for the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Still, President Trump insisted that America would not define parameters for a peace deal between the state of Israel and the Palestinian people. Contrary to the rigid two-state solution demands of the Obama administration and past presidents, Trump said he would review all available options for peace.
"I'm looking at two state and one state. And I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one," Trump said at the joint press conference with Netanyahu.
Netanyahu agreed, claiming that policymakers need to get away from “labels” and get down to “substance” in negotiations.
Critics of the two-state solution note that it would essentially empower the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza and the terror-supporting Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Other solutions for peace bring more countries and disputed territories into the fold, allowing for other actors to have a stake in the fate of the Palestinians.
Trump asked Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements a little bit,” referencing Israeli building projects in disputed territories. However, he did not suggest that the “settlements” in any way infringed upon a peace deal. Obama not only demanded Israel stop building settlements, he and his officials blamed the housing projects for the lack of peace in the entire region.
Netanyahu said he was looking forward to working with America to stop global jihadist movements.
“Under your leadership, I believe we can reverse the rising tide of radical Islam ... Israel stands with you and I stand with you,” the Israeli prime minister said.
The two leaders agreed that one of the biggest obstacles to peace was the Palestinians’ practice of resorting to hatred and incitement. Both Netanyahu and Trump touched upon the fact that Palestinians are taught from an early age to not recognize Israel’s existence.
"The Palestinians have to get rid of some of the hate that they're taught at a young age. They're taught tremendous hate. I've seen what they're taught,” Trump commented. Netanyahu added: "They continue to call for Israel's destruction inside their schools, inside their mosques, inside their textbooks. You have to read it to believe it.”
The president did not commit to moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. He did say, however, he was looking “very, very strongly” into the matter.
By and large, Trump and Netanyahu started things off on the right foot. The two leaders openly stated a deep appreciation for the other’s humanity and accomplishments. Netanyahu defended Trump from a hostile question insinuating that his November election victory was to blame for the rise of anti-Semitism worldwide. Trump welcomed his “friend” in Netanyahu and promised to uphold the “unbreakable bond” between the two nations.
Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for CR. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel