In First, Trump Says He 'Likes' Two-state Solution for Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Trump voices preference for two-state solution in Reuters interview, but adds: I ultimately like what the both parties like.

U.S. President Donald Trump is interviewed by Reuters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 23, 2017.
JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump for the first time as president expressed support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Thursday, though he stopped short of a full-throated endorsement.

"No, I like the two-state solution," Trump told Reuters when asked whether he had backed away from the concept during his joint White House appearance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "But I ultimately like what the both parties like." 

"People have been talking about it for so many years now. It so far hasn't worked," he added. But he then repeated his revised position, saying: "I like this two-state solution, but I am satisfied with whatever both parties agree with." 

Trump has so far distanced his administration from the U.S.'s long-standing policy in favor of the two-state solution. During his first press conference with Netanyahu in Washington earlier this month, Trump declined to endorse the two-state solution, and didn't rule out a one-state solution.

"So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like," Trump said. "I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi [Prime Minister Netanyahu] and if the Palestinians - if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best."

In Israel, some right-wing politicians and pundits openly celebrated Trump's words, and presented them as official death certificate of the two-state solution. Over the ocean in the U.S., the New York Times took Trump's openness to a one-state solution as the main take-away from the press conference. 

Others, however, saw this statement as simply stating that the terms of the peace deal will have to be negotiated by both parties, and the United States will not impose terms on the parties. It should be noted that the first American president to formally endorse a two-state solution was George W. Bush, who did it only in the year 2001. Bush, and Obama after him, defined that solution as a vital American interest. While some senior members of the Trump administration – such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis – agree with that characterization, Trump seems to think differently. For him, the vital interest is a peace agreement, preferably one that involves not just Israel and the Palestinians, but also other Arab states. 

A day after Trump's remarks at the joint press conference with Netanyahu, the U.S.'s envoy to the United Nations said the Trump administration still supports a two-state solution

Speaking to a UN Security Council session on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Haley said: "We support the two-state solution, but we are thinking out-of-the-box as well."