The first joint press conference between Pres. Trump and PM Netanyahu in the White House was exemplified by everything that was different from previous such meetings with Pres. Obama. There was a truly personal and friendly relationship between the two men, there were no warnings to Israel that settlements must be stopped, there was no strict interpretation of a “two state solution.” Instead there was a polite request by Trump “I’d like you to hold back on settlements.” There was no criticism of recent announcements of the building of houses in existing settlements or in East Jerusalem. There was the statement that Trump is considering all options and looking for “the one the parties like.” There was the reiteration that it’s up to the parties themselves and the US will be the facilitator.
There were also several statements by both men implying that a multinational solution, including the Sunni Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States), would be favored in the face of the two enemies, Iran and the Islamic State. There was discussion of Iran and the new sanctions that are being considered by the US against it for the firing of ballistic missiles in defiance of UN resolutions. The whole tone and substance were changed.
One of PM Netanyahu’s answers to a question about whether or not he still supports a “two-state solution” was crucial. He said that such formulas don’t help, he prefers to deal with substance as he has done from the beginning, namely that before there can be peace the Palestinians must accept Israel as the Jewish State and must give up terrorism and violence as a means to resolve the situation. This requires them to stop teaching their children from the kindergarten to hate Jews. Straightforward and simple. If they do that then all sorts of solutions will be possible. He said that Israel will never agree to a Palestine State if it going to be like Iran or IS, full of hated and terrorism. Any Palestine State must be part of the solution for peace from the beginning. This is a matter of substance not merely a formula and this is what all peace-loving people should be seeking. If only for that change in approach this was a historic press conference.