Israeli PM seeks 'no gaps' with Trump ahead of White House talks

Trump asks Netanyahu during joint presser to ‘hold back’ on settlements in disputed territory

Alex Wong Getty Images

It is not hard to imagine what Palestinian negotiators must have felt as they drove by the massive Israeli settlements on territory that they were working to include in an independent state.

"The people are very confused", said Somida Abbas, a 58-year-old Palestinian insurance executive sitting in a café on Ramallah's main square. "I've expressed my skepticism on the basis of Palestinians' inability to renounce terror and accept Israel as a Jewish state".

An Israeli withdrawal in return for Arab normalization is generally referred to as the two-state solution.

"Whether that comes in the form of a two-state solution if that's what the parties want, or something else", the official said, adding that Trump would not try to "dictate" a solution, Reuters said.

Was it one in which Israelis and Palestinians live happily ever after as citizens in the same state, or one where Israel maintains control of much of the West Bank and its inhabitants, and Palestinians exist as second-class citizens or worse?

It was the first time Trump had to intensively deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his statements revealed a certain degree of ignorance.

Trump: Doesn't sound too optimistic, but that's okay. Many Israelis would consider the views of some of these former ambassadors - Dan Kurtzer is a prime example - as much more radical than Friedman's.

For the better part of half a century, successive US governments - both Republican and Democrat - have backed a two-state solution.

But Trump's administration hoped to delay staking out a clear stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict - and, in particular, Israel's expanding settlements in the occupied territories - until after the president's first meeting with Netanyahu. "It is obvious that there will be no pressure exerted on Netanyahu".

Some regional analysts poured cold water on the notion that warming ties with some Sunni Arab states - due to a common threat posed by jihadist groups and the ambitions of Shiite Muslim Iran - could lead to any meaningful Arab engagement in a peace bid.

Since his election, Trump has talked a number of times to Netanyahu, in addition to welcoming him to the White House this week. "That is good, because he sees it as constitutionally unviable".

It was certainly a slap in the face to the majority of Palestinians who see an independent Palestinian state as the only solution to their problem. "If you want to go for a big move and reach the region involved, at the end of the day it is the Israelis who need to deliver the minimum requirements". I thought for a while that two states looked like the easier of the two.

Saudi Arabia, for its part, made no public move to leap into the diplomatic breach.

That's why it is important to not only observe what President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to say on the issue after their meeting today, but also to see how and whether this reported verbal shift is translated into actual policy. Down this path lies the very strong likelihood of more.

Many Arab governments, even Western-friendly ones, have always been cynical about successive USA administrations' attempts to broker a peace between Israelis and Palestinians, feeling that such efforts were doomed by a failure to press Israel to take steps like halting the building of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

"I think it's an issue, but I don't think it's the issue", Netanyahu told MSNBC's "For the Record" on Thursday, regarding the settlements. "We'll work something out".

The White House has claimed in the past to embrace a two-state solution as its official stance on Israel-Palestine. Did Trump's remarks Wednesday represent a sea change in USA policy?

Alon Liel, the former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry and a sharp critic of Mr Netanyahu's policies, said Mr Trump's pronouncement paves the way for Israel to annexe the West Bank in stages, leading to what will effectively be an apartheid state with a Jewish minority ruling over an Arab majority. "He's dealing with alternative realities". The White House stayed silent.

"I didn't expect anything from them", he said.

Downey Jr. and Linklater Team For MAN OF THE PEOPLE
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. (NYSE:VRX)