US President Donald Trump and Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference on Wednesday expressed confidence that relations between the two countries would reach new heights with Trump in the White House.
A number of statements from Trump indicated a dramatic shift in US Middle East policy, including an indifferent attitude toward a two-state solution, saying a single-state solution could also be acceptable if Palestinians and Israelis agree to it.
"I'm looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like," Trump said. "I'm very happy with the one that both parties like."
He said it was up to the two sides to negotiate a peace deal and that both sides would have to make compromises to reach an agreement. The last round of substantive peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians occurred in 2014.
Trump also rejected "unfair and one-sided actions against Israel at the UN," referring to a UN resolution passed in December condemning Israeli settlements. The then-US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, abstained from the UN vote with the approval of President Barack Obama, clearing the way for the measure to pass without approval the measure without a veto from the permanent members of the Security Council.
Against the grain
Trump said that while he had previously held the belief that a two-state solution "would be easiest," then he conceded that as long as Israel and the Palestinians were satisfied, he could "live with either one."
Palestinians were alarmed at the possibility Washington might turn its back on efforts for an independent Palestinian nation.
"If the Trump administration rejects this policy it would be destroying the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility abroad," said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Multiple US administrations, led by both Republicans and Democrats, have called for Middle East peace that includes the creation of a state for Palestinians. The two-state solution has also long served as the basis for international peace negotiations.
Much of the international community - including Germany - supports the two-state solution.
'Hold back on settlements'
Trump called on Netanyahu to "hold back on settlements a little bit." The Israeli leader said settlements were not the core of the conflict, made no commitment to cut back settlement activity and said the conditions for peace were Palestinians recognizing Israel's right to exist and Israeli security control of the region west of the Jordan River.
Netanyahu also brought up the fact that a Middle East peace agreement could be better negotiated by regional partners.
"We can seize a historic opportunity, for the first time in my lifetime, and the first time in the life of my country," he said, "Arab countries do not see Israel as an enemy, but increasingly, as an ally."
The issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions also came up during the press conference. Trump repeated his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration. Netanyahu praised the Trump's administration's recent sanctions against Iran and expressed his hope that Israel would be able to work with the United States to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions – something he said was "long overdue."
mz/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)