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Trump Declines to Endorse Two-state Solution, Calls on Netanyahu to Hold Back on Settlements

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U.S. President Donald Trump (R) looks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) looks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017.Credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE / Reuters
Updates

Where were Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu when Benjamin met Donald?

While President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu were meeting in the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon, First Lady Melania Trump and Netanyahu's wife Sara went on a joint tour of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, located in Washington's National Mall area.

The two ladies were guided by the Secretary of the Smithsonian, David Skorton, who is the chief executive responsible for all Smithsonian museums, and by Lonnie Bunch, the founding-director of the museum the two women visited, which opened just last year. Journalists who accompanied them to the museum were not provided access to the contents of the guided tour.

At one point during the tour, Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Netanyahu stopped to watch an interactive video about the Greensboro sit-in, one of the earliest and most famous examples of the civil rights movement's non-violent protests. The exhibition, the museum claims, allows visitors to examine "some of the places, people and actions that were key to the impact of the modern civil rights movement on American society."

After the tour, the two ladies left in separate cars, at approximately the same time that the president and prime minister were wrapping up their meeting. The first lady thanked Mrs. Netanyahu for coming to Washington, said it was "nice meeting you," and asked her counterpart to remain in touch. (Amir Tibon)

Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture Directort Lonnie Bunch(2ndR), talks with first Lady Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetaCredit: MOLLY RILEY/AFP

Netanyahu: I asked Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty in Golan Heights

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday that he asked U.S. President Donald Trump in their meeting to have the U.S. recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel. "I can say that there was no surprise by my request," Netanyahu said.

The U.S. and the international community don't recognize the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, announced in 1981. The U.S. treats the area as occupied Syrian territory, and has attempted several times to push for a peace deal between Israel and Syria that would include an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan. (Barak Ravid)

Read full story here

Analysis: Netanyahus high with Trump portends an inevitable fall

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Washington. Credit: Evan Vucci / AP

Supporters of a peace agreement with the Palestinians had a tough night, for sure, but at least they can console themselves with Trumps 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. This, however, cannot compensate for the harsh blow dealt to the two-state solution, which Netanyahu steadfastly refused to endorse, either because he was bowing to pressure from his coalition partners on the right or because he was using the first opportunity to renege on the Bar Ilan speech, which Obama had foisted on him anyway. Trump, on the other hand, not only retracted American support for a two-state solution, he distanced himself from the need to take any position whatsoever, preferring a sort of nihilistic formula of one state, two states, whatever, I dont care. It was a night to remember for messianics, annexationists, Hamas fans and supporters of a non-Jewish democratic Israel. For the Palestinian leadership, on the other hand, Netanyahu and Trump provided good reasons to feel abandoned, like an orphan.

Read the full analysis by Chemi Shalev

Palestinians call on Israel heed Trump's call to freeze settlements

The Palestinian Authority called on Israel to heed U.S. President Donald Trump's call to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

In a statement published Wednesday evening after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Trump at the White House, the Palestinian Authority said it still supported the two-state solution, the end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Palestinian leadership said it was willing to work in a positive manner with the Trump administration.

It further said it was willing to renew negotiations to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

The Palestinians blasted Netanyahu for his statement that settlements were not the core of the conflict and for repeating his demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, calling them both a continuation of Israel's policy of undermining a peaceful solution. (Jack Khoury)

Analysis: Trump did his homework on one touchy issue before meeting Netanyahu

Donald Trump didnt display much familiarity or expertise with the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday.

Im looking at two-state and at one-state, and I like the one that both parties like, he said at the news conference, beside embarrassed, giggling Netanyahu. He said the U.S. will encourage a peace and, really, a great peace deal.

The U.S. president looked as though he didnt have a clue. The regional approach he was talking about sounded hollow, as though he were reciting a headline from a piece of paper someone had handed him.

Read the full analysis by Yossi Verter

Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu tour African American museum

While President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu were meeting in the Oval Office, First Lady Melania Trump and Netanyahu's wife Sara went on a joint tour of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, located in Washington's National Mall area.  

The two were guided by the secretary of the Smithsonian, David Skorton, who is the chief executive responsible for all Smithsonian museums, and by Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which was opened just last year. A press pool that accompanied them to the museum did not have close-enough access to hear the contents of the guidance. 

At one point in the tour, Trump and Netanyahu stopped to watch an interactive video exhibition about the Greensboro sit-in, one of the earliest and most famous non-violent protests of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The exhibition, according to the museum, allows the visitors to closely examine "some of the places, people and actions that were key to the impact of the modern Civil Rights Movement on American society." 

After the tour, the two ladies left in separate cars at approximately the same time that the president and prime minister were wrapping up their meeting. The First Lady thanked Netanyahu for coming to Washington, said it was "nice meeting you," and asked her to stay in touch. (Amir Tibon)

Analysis: Netanyahu bails out Trump with a kosher stamp

It was a feel-good press conference by design and the man that everyone was trying to help feel good was President Donald J. Trump. First in line to make a supreme effort to help him feel that way was his guest, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was surely hoping that he could put Trump in a cheerful mood before the two men and their aides sat down to hammer out policy. 

Battered by the crisis swirling around the resignation of his National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn, the dispiriting battering of his Executive Order on Immigration by the courts, and the troubled nomination of Andrew Puzder as Labor Secretary, it was clear that Trump was in dire need of a grand moment standing in front of the shiny gold curtains at the White House, his family and top aides in the front row of the press conference - Melania and Ivanka Trump, senior advisors Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner and policy director Stephen Miller.

Read the full analysis by Allison Kaplan Sommer here

READ FULL TRANSCRIPT: Trump and Netanyahu's joint press conference

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Today I have the honor of welcoming my friend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to the White House.  With this visit, the United States again reaffirms our unbreakable bond with our cherished ally, Israel.  The partnership between our two countries built on our shared values has advanced the cause of human freedom, dignity and peace. These are the building blocks of democracy.

Read the full transcript here

Explained: How big an obstacle are Israeli settlements to peace?

If his latest statements are any indication, U.S. President Donald Trump may be having second thoughts about how unharmful Israels West Bank settlement project is to the peace process.

Americas unpredictable new president may be a bit more forthcoming about where he draws the line when he meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday. Meanwhile, his statements have been interpreted as a green light for Israel to continue building within the settlement blocs, though not beyond them. (Judy Maltz)

A map of the major Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank.

Read full story here

Explained: What is the difference between a two-state solution and one-state solution

The Trump administration appears to be easing away from longstanding U.S. support for Palestinian statehood as the preferred outcome of Middle East peace efforts, which may please some allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. But the alternatives are few, and each comes with daunting and combustible complications, including for Israel itself.

The idea of two states in the Holy Land - a Jewish Israel and an Arab Palestine - rests on a particular logic: There are two quite different peoples of roughly equal size living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River; each wants their own nation-state to control and dominate numerically; each has shown tenacity toward this goal.

This would require Israel to let go of most and maybe all of the territory it captured in the 1967 war, when it completed its takeover of all the land that British colonizers abandoned in 1948. That includes the West Bank, where there are now islands of Palestinian autonomy, scattered Jewish settlements and overriding Israeli military control; the eastern part of Jerusalem, which Israel has fully annexed and populated with Jews; and the coastal Gaza Strip, which was actually evacuated in 2005 and is now controlled by the Islamic militants of Hamas and blockaded by Israel and Egypt.

One State Solution

For years this was the goal of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and for many Palestinians it is indeed the preferred option: a single democratic state, not defined as specifically Jewish or Arab, in the area of British colonial Palestine. Many prefer it anyway to the two-state notion whereby even if Israel gives up all the land it captured in 1967 it retains almost 80% of Palestine.

The problem is that almost no one in Israel is arguing for the true extension of full rights to Palestinians in the currently occupied territories because even with Gaza excluded it would leave Arabs constituting close to half the country's population - and that is clearly the end of the Zionist dream of a Jewish state. This is why Israel has never annexed the West Bank and why the more sophisticated nationalists profess to support a partition, albeit on terms the Palestinians have not accepted and are not likely to.

If the Palestinians formally drop the two-state strategy and demand incorporation into Israel it will put Israel in the awkward position of refusing to annex territories where it has been settling Jews for decades. Down this path lie coercion efforts in the form of international sanctions on Israel, or Palestinian violence. (AP)

A general view shows the Israeli barrier running along the East Jerusalem refugee camp of Shuafat, in an area Israel annexed after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East war February 15, 2017Credit: Reuters

Netanyahu: Israel has no greater friend than Donald Trump

Netanyahu deflected on Moav Vardi's question about settlement growth, saying that "I believe that the issue of the settlements doesnt drive the conflict. What does abu mazen mean by two states? A state that doesnt recognize the Jewish state?" Netanyahu said that Israel demanded, "Recognition ... security control over the whole area, otherwise well get another terrorist state."

Netanyahu then defended Trump, saying "Ive known President Trump for many years and to allude to him or his people other people who Ive known for a long time - can i reveal Jared (Kushner), how long Ive known you? - there is no greater support for Israel or the Jewish State than President Donald Trump, I think we can put that to rest."

Trump sidesteps question about anti-Semitism: 'You're going to see a lot of love'

After Channel 10's Moav Vardi asked about the rising anti-Semitism since his election, Trump failed to mention the words anti-Semitism in his response, instead discussing his electoral victory.

"We are very honored by the victory we had. We are going to have peace in this country, we are going to stop crime in this country ... we are going to do everything we can to stop racism." While never mentioning anti-Semitism specifically, Trump said that, "As far as Jewish people - so many friends, a daughter, a son-in-law and three beautiful grandchildren - I think youre going to see a very different american in the next three, four years ... You're going to see a lot of love."

US President Donald Trump (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands following a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP

Trump: Israelis are going to have to show some flexibility to show they really want a deal

Trump called a potential regional peace "a much bigger deal, much more important deal in many ways."

The president expressed surprise that Netanyahu had rasied the issue and said, "Well see how that works out."

Trump said the Israelis, "are going to have to show some flexibility which is hard, its hard to do." He also ambiguously mentioned a "concept weve been working on now for a while," and that, "I think they (Israel) want to make a deal, otherwise I wouldnt be happy, I wouldnt be here."

Trump echoed comments from Netanyahu, saying that "Palestinians have to get rid of the hate they're taught from a very young age. Theyll have to acknowledge Israel and I think theyre going to be willing to do that also."

"Were going to have other players on a very high level and I think that will make it easier."

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, along with their wives, Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu, hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP

Netanyahu: Persistent rejectionism is the reason we dont have peace

Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he arrives with his his wife Sara at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017.Credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

Netanyahu responded to Trump's comments by saying that "rather than deal with labels, I want to deal with substance. There are two prerequisites for peace. First, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish State ... they have to stop educating there people to destroy the people of Israel."

"The Palestinians continue to call for Israels destruction." Netanyahu said that the Palestinians' positions rejected any Jewish connection to the land.

"The Chinese are called Chinese because they come from China. The Japanese are called Japanese because they come from Japan. And Jews are called Jews because they come from Judea. Palestinians not only deny the past, they poison the present. Persistent rejectionism is the reason we dont have peace.

"If anybody believes that I, as the prime minister of Israel, responsible for its security, would walk into a Palestinian terrorist state, they are gravely mistaken."

Trump: I can live with either two states or one state - whatever the Israelis and Palestinians want

Trump and Netanyahu in the White HouseCredit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Donald Trump said that "I am looking at two states or one state, and I like the one that both parties like," though he noted that "the two states looks like it could be the easier of the two."

Trump told Netanyahu that "Id like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit."

"Bibi and I have known each other for a long time - smart man, great negotiator," Trump continued.

Netanyahu: Under Trump's leadership, we can stop rising tide of radical Islam

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for his remarks, saying "our alliance has been remarkably strong, but under your leadership Im sure it will get remarkably stronger."

"I welcome your forthright call that Israel is treated fairly. Our alliance is based on a deep bond of common values ... interests that are under threat by one force: radical Islamic terrorists."

"Under your leadership, I believe we can reverse the rising tide of radical Islam. In this task, Israel stands with you and I stand with you," Netanyahu added.

"For the first time in Israel's lifetime and my lifetime, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy but as an ally."

Trump to Netanyahu: Both Israel, Palestinians will have to make compromises - you know that, right?

U.S. President Donald Trump opened his joint press conference by saying "our shared values have advanced the causes of human freedom, dignity and peace," adding that "Israel is a symbol to the world of resilience in the face of oppression."

Trump noted that, "we will never forget what the Jewish people endured," saying that "your perseverence ... is truly inspirational."

The U.S. president said that the security challenges faced by Israel are enormous, including the Iran nuclear deal, "which I've talked about a lot."

"We have a long history of cooperation in the fight against terrorism and those who dont value human life," Trump said, adding that "we reject unfair and one-sided actions against israel in the United Nations which has treated Israel, in my opinion, very, very unfairly."

Trump said that "the United States will encourage a peace, and really a great peace deal ... but it is the parties themselves who must directly negotiate such an agreement."

Trump then turned to Netanyahu and said "both sides will have to make compromises, you know that right?"

Trump, Netanyahu joint press conference set to begin

Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu have arrived at the White House, and were greeted by Donald and Melania Trump upon arrival.

Trump and Netanyahu are just moments away from a joint press conference in Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, as they arrive at the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017.Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP

8 things to watch out for in Netanyahu-Trump joint press conference

1. Will either U.S. President Donald Trump or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mention the two-state solution?

2. What exactly will they say about the Iran nuclear deal: Will they call for its cancellation or increased monitoring?

3. Will Netanyahu mention David Friedman, Trump's contentious apointee for U.S. ambassador to Israel, whose Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing is scheduled for tomorrow?

4. Which senior advisers will be mentioned by name: Steve Bannon? Jared Kushner? Will Netanyahu shake Steve Bannon's hand?

5. Will Netanyahu be asked about his ongoing criminal investigations in Israel?

6. Will the Trump administration's failure to mention Jews in their Holocaust Remembrance Day statement come up?

7. Will Netanyahu reiterate his support for Trump's plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border?

8. Who will be the first to tweet about the press conference after the fact? (Amir Tibon and Bradley Burston)

Trump, Netanyahu to hold joint press conference before sitting down together

U.S. President Donald Trump will welcome Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House entrance at 11:50 A.M. local time (6:50 P.M. Israel time). The prime minister will sign the guest book, and then the two leaders will hold a joint press conference, before actually having a chance to sit together and coordinate their messages. This scheduling decision - assuming it is purposeful - indicates a high level of confidence that the two leaders will not contradict each other before the cameras, and perhaps also means their messages on the important issues have already been prepared in advance. (Amir Tibon)

Bradley Burston: A wounded Trump hurts a wounded Netanyahu

On the drawing board, it was to have been nothing less than triumphal, a crowning moment in Benjamin Netanyahu's long but legacy-deficient career: A high-profile maiden visit to the Republican White House and the newly inaugurated King of the World. The prime minister of Israel as one of the very first of the world's leaders to be accorded the honor. From election night on, if only from the standpoints of prestige and optics, Netanyahu looked to the Oval Office visit to be a game-changer.

Then the game changed. (Bradley Burston)

Read full story here

Melania Trump will be on hand to greet Sara Netanyahu

Melania and Donald TrumpCredit: CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

Melania Trump will be on hand to greet Sara Netanyahu, according to a recent draft of the Israeli prime ministers schedule published on the Axios website that reads: Greeting (11:50 a.m., South Portico, along with both first ladies)

If Melania is indeed winging her way to Washington mid-week to join her husband in welcoming Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu, it will be the first time she will serve in the official capacity of First Lady in the nations capital since the inauguration. 

Last week, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made his state visit to Washington, much was made of the First Ladys absence and the fact that Abes wife Akie spend the day unescorted. Traditionally, first ladies act as companions to their foreign counterparts when such visits take place. 

Melania Trump, who kept a low profile throughout the presidential campaign and the transition chose to stay in New York at least until the end of the school year to care for her son, Barron after her husband moved into the White House

Sara Netanyahu has made no secret of her eagerness to bond with her American counterpart. She has called Melania Trump twice to congratulate her - once after her husbands election and once after Inauguration - and in both calls said she was looking forward to meeting the new First Lady. (Allison Kaplan Sommer)

Netanyahu's long, strange journey with 4 U.S. presidents

In a few hours, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will arrive at the White House for his first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. For Trump, this will be only his fifth meeting with a foreign head of state since becoming president, and the second one with a leader from the Middle East. For Netanyahu, however, the setting of the meeting will likely feel more familiar, since Trump will be the fourth U.S. President that Netanyahu will have met over the course of the last two decades. (Amir Tibon)

Read the full story.

Top Palestinian negotiator: Only alternative to two-state solution is single, democratic one

Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, said Wednesday that the only alternative to a two-state solution is one state with equal democratic rights for all. Speaking at a press conference in Jericho, Erekat added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is aiming for an apartheid future.

Erekat's comments came in response to quotes attributed to a White House official on Wednesday, who said that President Donald Trump seeks Middle East peace but isn't insistent on a two-state solution. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry already expressed alarm over the official's comments, calling them a "dangerous shift" in the American position on the conflict. (Jack Khoury)

Read the full story.

CIA chief meets Abbas ahead of Netanyahu-Trump summit

CIA director Mike Pompeo met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday in Ramallah, a day before Netanyahu's White House meeting with Trump. Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the meeting that the two discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that they heard reassuring messages. (Jack Khoury)

Read the full story

Analysis: For Netanyahu, Flynn storm is Deja Vu of Clinton and Monica Lewinsky

The resignation of Michael Flynn as U.S. President Donald Trumps national security adviser has sparked an unprecedented storm that is likely to preoccupy the White House as it prepares to greet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But while this is all uncharted and apparently bewildering territory for Trump and his advisers, Netanyahu is an old hat whos been there and done that before. The only difference is that in January 1998, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke out and upended Netanyahus visit, he viewed it as a godsend, not as a nuisance. (Chemi Shalev)

Read the full analysis

Netanyahu meets with Rex Tillerson

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday.

The two discussed all the regional issues, including Iran, the Prime Minister's Bureau said. According to the bureau, Netanyahu also invited Tillerson to Israel in order to form direct contacts between his team and the prime minister's office. (Barak Ravid)

U.S. official: Trump won't impose two-state solution on Israel, Palestinians

Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is high on the agenda of U.S. President Donald Trump, but whether or not that will entail the two-state solution depends on the two sides, a senior U.S. administration official told reporters in Washington on Tuesday, a day before a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. president.

"It's not for us to impose that vision," the official said, adding that the term "two-state solution" has not been particularly well defined. (Barak Ravid)

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Analysis: After Obama, Netanyahu seeks victory lap in White House

After a longer-than-usual absence of 15 months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returns to Washington. Following eight years during which every visit to the American capital and every meeting with then-President Barack Obama was accompanied by drama, confrontation, tension and crisis, the present visit has all the potential to be completely different – if not in terms of political substance, at least in style. (Barak Ravid)

Read the full analysis

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