In an epic first meeting promising to strengthen American-Israeli relations, President Donald Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements,” and the two agreed that the Iran nuclear deal was “the worst deal ever,” while committing to a “no daylight” policy – meaning that they will not publicize their disagreements as former President Barack Obama regularly did.
As a host at the White House, Trump indicated that he could support either a one-state or a two-state resolution with Netanyahu and made it clear that he would make a deal to end the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I’m looking at two states and one state, [and] I am very happy with the one that both parties like,” Trump expressed, according to The Jerusalem Post. “I thought for a while the two state might be easier to do, but honestly, if Bibi and the Palestinians – if Israel and the Palestinians are happy – then I am happy with the one they like the best.”
Disappointing some Israelis and pro-Israel conservatives in the United States, Trump’s entertainment of the thought of a Palestinian State could cause some waves in an already turbulent relationship between the two nations – tensions that were stirred up by the pro-Palestinian Obama administration.
“He is the first U.S. president in at least two decades to refrain from pledging allegiance to the idea of a two-state paradigm and to open the door to the possibility of alternative ideas to achieve peace between Israeli and Palestinians, as well as in the wider region” The Jerusalem Post’s Michael Wilner and Tovah Lazaroff pointed out. “Netanyahu, in turn, alluded to his continued support for a two-state resolution to the conflict, noting that his opinion on the matter had not changed in the eight years since he first spoke of two states for two peoples.”
A new and improved era of U.S.-Israel relations
Policy positions concerning major Middle Eastern hot-button issues – including Iran and its rogue nuclear program, ISIS, the Syrian civil war and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict – were discussed for several hours at the first face-to-face meeting between the two since Trump was inducted into office.
Even though the two world leaders did not see eye-to-eye on every issue, their discussion struck an entirely different chord than the contentious meetings Netanyahu had over the past eight years with Obama – discussions that regularly ended with discord, as the two countries drifted further and further apart from their previously strong alliance.
“The affection between the two men was clear from their smiles and warm handshakes,” Wilner and Lazaroff announced. “The two leaders – whose relationship reaches back to the 1980s – both spoke of each other in admiring tones.”
Insisting that his strong ties with Netanyahu gave him a distinct advantage – to overcome major hurdles in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that former U.S. presidents did not have – Trump announced that he looked forward to reaching a mutual agreement soon.
“Bibi and I have known each other a long time,” the commander-in-chief stressed, noting that he was personally committed to working “very, very diligently” to reach a deal. “[He] is smart and a great negotiator. [Therefore,] I think we are going to make a deal.”
There was not smooth sailing during the entire meeting, however, as Trump notified Netanyahu that he would have to make some concessions – at least for now.
“There were a few points of tension at the press conference, with Trump asking Netanyahu to ‘hold back on settlements,’ and saying that Israel would have to take steps for peace,” Israel’s number one daily announced.
The newly inaugurated president then drew some lines for the Israeli leader.
“Both sides will have to make compromises – you know that, right?” Trump asked Netanyahu, who followed up the question by jokingly referring to Trump’s book that was penned in 1987, titled The Art of the Deal.
Trump then made it known that the Palestinians would have to make major concessions, as well.
“The Israelis are going to have to show some flexibility, and I think they’ll do that,” the 70-year-old American negotiator impressed.
Each leader emphasized that any deal reached would most definitely include participation from the wider Arab world, which consistently demands that a Palestinian state must be established.
Bringing up the controversial Jewish settlements that were condemned by the United Nations Security Council’s anti-Israel resolution on Christmas Eve, the Israeli prime minister said the housing is not a deal-breaker.
“Netanyahu repeated his belief that settlement activity is not central to the conflict,” Wilner and Lazaroff informed. “But he did acknowledge ‘it’s an issue,’ and said he would work with Trump on mechanisms to avoid repeated confrontations over construction.”
Middle East housekeeping
Yet when it came to the militant terrorist-harboring Islamic Republic, both Trump and Netanyahu were on the same page.
“While the two leaders seemed at odds on settlement activity and the viability of a peace process, they seemed in agreement on Iran, which they said was a focus of their consultations,” the Israeli daily reported. “Next to a grinning Netanyahu, Trump repeated his criticism of the international agreement governing Iran’s nuclear program as the worst deal ever made. And Netanyahu characterized Iran as the core of a scourge Trump has vowed to eliminate – radical Islamic terrorism.”
Netanyahu specifically brought up Iran’s ballistic missile program and the projected strengthening of its nuclear infrastructure that is scheduled to persist through the latter years of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that was agreed upon during the Obama administration.
“You’ve shown great clarity and courage in confronting this challenge head-on,” Netanyahu told Trump.
On the same day of the one-on-one conversation and joint press conference in the East Room – which included White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, Melania Trump, Sara Netanyahu and White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump – a joint statement was issued. In it, the American and Israeli governments stressed that the two leaders ended their long conversations at the White House with a friendly agreement to keep their disagreements confidential.
“In today’s meeting, President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed that there will be ‘no daylight’ between the United States and Israel,” the statement declared, according to Israel National News. “The president underscored the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, and that his administration will safeguard and strengthen the overall security relationship.”