President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today held a long-anticipated meeting, where both leaders expressed optimism, and the president asked Netanyahu to “hold back” on new settlements in pursuit of a “peace deal.”
In a joint news conference, Trump called Israel a “symbol of resilience in the face of oppression.” He said, “we will never forget what the Jewish people have endured.”
Trump honed in on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, criticizing the agreement signed by former President Obama. “One of the worst deals I’ve ever seen,” he said, “is the Iran deal.”
“I will do more to prevent Iran from developing–and I mean ever–a nuclear threat,” Trump added.
In a direct reference to Obama’s parting shot abstention on the UN Security Council’s deplorable statement on Israel’s settlements, the president expressed his rejection of “unfair and one sided actions against Israel at the United Nations.”
Harking back to pre-Oslo American mid-east policy, Trump said that the “parties themselves” need to directly negotiate a peace agreement. “[Both] sides will have to make compromises,” the president said, then turning with a smile to directly address Netanyahu, “you know that, right?”
“I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit,” Trump said.
Netanyahu spoke optimistically about forging a regional approach with “our new Arab partners,” and said “I greatly look forward to discussing this in detail” with Trump. “I think that if we work together, we have a shot.”
Trump said “the Israelis are going to have to show some flexibility, which is hard.” Expanding on Netanyahu’s comments, the president said that Israel could show more flexibility than before because of a “bigger canvas.”
“I wouldn’t be happy, and I wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be as optimistic as I am,” Trump added. “From the standpoint of Bibi and the standpoint of Israel, I really believe they want to make a deal.”
“I think the Palestinians have to get rid of some of the hate that they’re taught from a very young age,” Trump said. “I’ve seen what they’re taught.”
Trump gave one precondition: Palestinians will have to acknowledge Israel. “There’s no way a deal can be made if they’re not ready to acknowledge a very very great and important country.” Hamas in particular has never acknowledged Israel’s right to exist, and in fact denies Israel in their charter.
While that condition has proven insurmountable in the past, Trump referenced other “high level” players that might make this “easier for both the Palestinians and for Israel to get something done.” He did not reference who those players might be.
Doing the same thing and expecting different results is one definition of insanity. It appears that Trump and Netanyahu have begun to hammer out an effort to make progress without repeating the mistakes of the past. This can only be the start of something much, much better than what we’ve seen for the past eight years.
Watch the news conference below.