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Palestinians Alarmed, But Not Surprised, By Trump-Netanyahu Comments

  • Cecily Hilleary

A woman reads a newspaper as monitors showing the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, are seen next to a coffee shop in Tel Aviv, Israel, Feb. 15, 2017.

Palestinians are expressing alarm – but not surprise – at the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting in Washington between the U.S. president and the Israeli premier, in which President Donald Trump appeared to back down from decades of U.S. policy.

“I'm looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like," Trump told a joint news conference with Netanyahu. “I can live with either one.”

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, created further confusion Thursday when she insisted that "the two-state solution is what we support." But that did nothing to quiet anger among the Palestinians, who remained focused on Trump's openness to a single state.

In an editorial entitled “Absence of Two-State Solution Means Single State, Even Racism,” the Jerusalem-based pro-Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper online said Thursday that Trump complements the position and policy of Netahyahu, who, “killed the two-state solution in the wake of the unusual settlement savagery and the Knesset decision in this regard.”

The latter is a reference to the Israeli parliament’s passage February 6 of the controversial “Regularization Law,” which retroactively legalized dozens of settlements across the West Bank.

The editorial called for Palestinians to reassess their goals: “We should call for a single state, which is practically and politically dead after the meetings in Washington, and call for one state. And perhaps we should also hand over all Palestinian keys to Israel.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, is greeted by Hanan Ashrawi, left, legislator and activist, as he arrives at his hotel in New York, Monday, Sept. 19, 2011, to attend the 66th General Assembly session of United Nations.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, is greeted by Hanan Ashrawi, left, legislator and activist, as he arrives at his hotel in New York, Monday, Sept. 19, 2011, to attend the 66th General Assembly session of United Nations.



PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi accused the White House of accommodating the most “extreme and irresponsible” elements in Israel, saying it was no way to conduct foreign policy.

“If the Trump administration rejects this [two-state] policy, it will destroy the chances for peace and undermine American interests, standing and credibility abroad,” Ashrawi said in a statement.

And, she added, if the U.S. leader intends to end the two-state solution,he should put alternatives on the table.

The Palestinian News and Information Agency quoted a press release by the Palestinian ministry of foreign affairs that cautions against drawing premature conclusions about Wednesday’s meeting in Washington, stating that the new U.S. president is still evaluating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, in Israel, the political right-wing was generally positive about the meeting.

“Trump Is Good for the Jews,” declared Israel Hayom foreign affairs editor Boaz Bismuth in Israel Hayom, a pro-Netanyahu daily. "The press conference with Trump and Netanyahu was a U-turn from everything we have heard, known, understood, and considered for decades.

"For the most part, the ideas of the two-state solution for peace, road maps, multilateral negotiations, international initiatives, threats of sanctions against Israel, fingers of blame pointed at the settlements, have become irrelevant, or at best, secondary. ... And while the Israeli Left will surely frown upon this formula, only time will tell if the Israeli Right will fully subscribe to it," Bismuth continued.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman noted apparent chemistry and trust between Trump and Netanyahu, according to open source reports.

“It takes years to build relations between two countries, step by step, and in the first meeting, the critical thing is to build positive personal relations. ... The prime minister ... successfully achieved this,” Lieberman said, adding, “with respect to the rest, we don’t know exactly what happened.”

Earlier in the week, Lieberman had suggested the Trump-Netanyahu meeting should focus on another, more important issue: “The greatest threat to Israel is Iran, Iran and Iran,” he said.

For his part, Naftali Bennett, Education minister and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party offered rare praise for Netanyahu in an interview with Kol Baramah radio: “Netanyahu made a correct decision yesterday to put an end to the adoption of a state of Palestine position, a position which Israel had adopted for 24 years.

“After 24 years, the Palestinian flag has come down from the mast and the Israeli flag has taken its place,” he added.

Israeli Education Minister and head of the Jewish Home right-wing party Naftali Bennett arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Jerusalem office December 4, 2016.

Israeli Education Minister and head of the Jewish Home right-wing party Naftali Bennett arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Jerusalem office December 4, 2016.



But those to the center and left on Israel’s political spectrum had mixed reactions.

In an editorial for Yedioth Ahronoth, Nahum Barnea, though critical of the U.S. president, agreed with Trump’s assertion that the future of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis should be determined by the players themselves.

“One should not be shocked by the lightness in which Trump threw into the bin decades of American support for the two-state solution,” he wrote in the centrist daily. “In his simplistic, blatant way, he put his finger on the heart of the problem: If both sides want two states, they should agree on two states; if both sides want one state, they should agree on one state. America shouldn’t have to teach them what is best for them.”

Chemi Shalev, the U.S. editor for the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, wrote: "Supporters of a peace agreement with the Palestinians had a tough night, for sure, but at least they can console themselves with Trump’s impromptu turn to Netanyahu to 'hold off with settlements for a while' and with his continued lip service to achieving a solution to the conflict.”

Shalev interpreted Trump’s statements as more than just a retraction of U.S. support for a two-state solution.

“Trump ... distanced himself from the need to take any position whatsoever, preferring a sort of nihilistic formula of one state, two states, whatever, I don’t care," Shalev said.

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