DEBKAfile Special Report February 15, 2017, 9:30 PM (IDT)
“One state, two states, I like this state,” Donald Trump joked, turning to visiting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when they addressed a wide-ranging, friendly news conference Wednesday, Feb.15, at the White House, ahead of their face-to-face talks.
Trump reacted positively to Netanyahu’s proposal to broaden the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to a regional effort as a “very important” new idea “on a broader canvas” which he believed could succeed. Netanyahu said that the regional fears of Iran also presented an opportunity for cooperation against the Islamic State and radical Islamic terror.
DEBKAfile reports that these sentiments reflected agreement in principle between Trump and Netanyahu to seek an Israeli peace accord with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates as the lead-in to negotiations for an accord with the Palestinians. Egypt, Jordan and Turkey with whom Israel already has normal relations would jump in later. This deal fits in with the US plan reported more than once on these pages for a regional peace between the Sunni Arab nations and the Jewish State.
Some of the spadework may have been performed by CIA Director Mike Pompeo who paid a secret visit to Ramallah Wednesday morning for talks with Mahmoud Abbas, after trips to Ankara and Riyadh, following which Turkey upgraded its diplomatic mission in Israel
This plan was the fulcrum for the president to push back against the two-state solution advocated by the Obama administration as the cure for the conflict. It remains to be seen if this plan takes on life outside the White House and in the region’s capitals.
Trump realistically called on Israel to “hold back settlements,” show flexibility and make compromises for a peace deal. He urged the Palestinians to “get rid of hate starting in the schoolroom.” Whatever the Israelis and Palestinians agree to in direct talks – one state or two – “I will accept,.” he said, adding “I believe we will have a deal that is better than many Israelis think.”
In answer to a question on settlements, Netanyahu replied that he did not believe they were the core of the conflict and the issue could be addressed in peace negotiations. With regard to a two-state formula, the prime minister said this was a label and he preferred to deal in substance. An independent state was contingent on the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, giving up incitement to violence and Israel remaining responsible for security up to the Jordan River. “Do we want another failed state, another terrorist state?” he asked.
Netanyahu commended the US President for pledging that Iran must never, ever obtain a nuclear weapon and stressed that its missile program was a threat – not only to Israel and the region, but to America due to the ICBMs under development and Iran’s plans for a nuclear arsenal.
President Trump greeted the Israeli leader with stress on the “unbreakable bond with our cherished ally, Israel” their cooperation against violence and terror and shared values in respect of human life. He said that his first sit-down with Netanyahu as president would be the first of “many productive meetings.”
The president made the exceptional gestures of welcoming Netanyahu and his wife Sarah at the door of the White House, with the First Lady at his side. The couples exchanged warm embraces.
Melania Trump took a seat beside Sarah Netanyahu in the front row of the news conference. They were joined by Ivanka and Jared Kushner, who holds the post of special adviser to the president.
Netanyahu ends his Washington visit Thursday after meeting Vice President Mike Pence and leaders of Congress.