© 2024 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Trump Appears To Back Off 2-State Solution In Meeting With Netanyahu


Now let's look at what Donald Trump had to say about Israel as he stood alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: For decades, the U.S. approach to the Middle East peace process was based on the idea of two states for two peoples, the Palestinians and the Israelis. But Donald Trump is shaking this up.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.


TRUMP: I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I could live with either one.

KELEMEN: That's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chuckling in the background. When an Israeli journalist pressed him on this, Netanyahu said he didn't want to get bogged down in labels. The Israeli prime minister says he's looking for new ways to reach peace with the Palestinians.


NETANYAHU: And I believe that the great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach, from involving our newfound Arab partners.

KELEMEN: It's been dubbed the outside-in approach, and the idea is that Arab states will encourage the Palestinians to make peace with Israel, and Israel will get broad recognition in the Muslim world. David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy says Arab states may be working more closely now with Israel on security issues but don't want to stick out their neck for Netanyahu.

DAVID MAKOVSKY: Right now, the Arab states have an under-the-table relationship with the Israelis, and whatever they get from Israel under the table they get for free, so to speak. So I don't know if they have an incentive to go above the table, and I don't know if that's going to bring the Palestinians in or not.

KELEMEN: Makovsky doesn't believe the Trump administration is really backing away from the idea of a two-state solution. He says Trump's remarks were mainly for political tactical reasons to help out Netanyahu, whose critics at home made this a key issue.

MAKOVSKY: In many ways, the question of whether we're going to hit a two-state solution is like saying, how are we going to get the runner home from third base when we don't even have a runner on first base yet?

KELEMEN: Palestinians, though, are calling on Trump and Netanyahu to be clear about the alternatives - either a non-democratic Israel that treats Palestinians as second-class citizens or a country that no longer has a Jewish majority. We reached Hanan Ashrawi of the PLO's executive committee in Ramallah.

HANAN ASHRAWI: If they want one state, let's deal with citizenship and equal rights. And we'll all become citizens of that one state, and we will act democratically.

KELEMEN: Ashrawi says President Trump is going against the global consensus on the Middle East and listening so far mainly to right-wing leaders in Israel and to his son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose family has supported Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.

ASHRAWI: They know that they cannot make any moves, or they cannot launch any kind of peace initiative if they want one without addressing the Palestinian question and talking to the Palestinian political leadership. And I think they will sooner or later. Right now, I think they're feeling their way. They're not sure. I'd much rather they study the file, they study the case before they jump to conclusions.

KELEMEN: There are some signs that Trump may already be moderating his positions. He says he's still studying whether to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital. Arab leaders have been privately urging him not to do that, and they've raised concerns about the Israeli government's plans to expand settlements in the West Bank. Trump had a message for Netanyahu on that today, too.


TRUMP: I'd like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We'll work something out, but I would like to see a deal be made. I think a deal will be made.

KELEMEN: Netanyahu seemed to be taken aback and was making no promises to rein in building projects. He argued that this is not the core of the problem. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
More On This Topic