WASHINGTON, U.S. - The U.S. president on Wednesday announced his desire to reach "the ultimate deal" following his meeting at the White House with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Rejecting the "two-state" solution, the bedrock principle that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will come via two states for two peoples, he referred instead to the possibility of an Arab-backed peace process.
"The United States will encourage a peace and really, a great peace deal," Trump declared at a news conference alongside Netanyahu.
"We'll be working on it very, very diligently," suggesting that he would strike a new course for the Middle East.
He added, "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like," when asked about his administration’s commitment to a separate Palestinian state apart from Israel, which has been U.S. policy since the Clinton administration.
"If Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best," he continued.
He also said, "It is the parties themselves that must directly negotiate. Both sides will have to make compromises."
Then turning to Netanyahu, he added a question, "You know that, right?"
Meanwhile, Netanyahu sidestepped questions about whether he still supports the solution on Wednesday, saying instead he wanted to avoid "labels" and talk substance.
He did also not respond directly when asked if he would comply with Trump's request at the news conference that he "hold back" on settlement expansion.
However, he indicated he was open to some sort of arrangement.
“We’ll work something out but I’d like to see a deal be made. I think a deal will be made,” he said.
Pressed by reporters later Wednesday, the Israeli Prime Minister replied, "I think we'll try to find a common understanding that is consistent with pursuit of peace and security."
In Cairo meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres remarked, “There is no Plan B to the situation between Palestinians and Israelis but a two-state solution. ... Everything must be done to preserve that possibility.”
Meanwhile, when Trump was asked by an Israeli journalist about the rise of anti-Semitic acts in the United States, Trump, rather bizarrely, began recounting his election victory.
“Well, I just want to say that we are, you know, very honored by the victory that we had ― 316 Electoral College votes. We were not supposed to crack 220. You know that, right?” he asked Netanyahu.
“There was no way to 221, but then they said there’s no way to 270. And there’s tremendous enthusiasm out there.”
He completed his answer by saying he had many Jewish friends, as well as his daughter, son-in-law and three of his grandchildren.
In another perplexing answer, when asked a question about the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, Trump answered, “Michael Flynn ― General Flynn ― is a wonderful man. I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media, as I call it, the fake media in many cases. And I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly.”
“I think in addition to that from intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked, it’s criminal action. It’s a criminal act and it’s been going on for a long time before me but now it’s really going on. People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton. I think it’s very, very unfair what’s happened to General Flynn, the way he was treated and the documents and papers that were illegally ― I stress that, illegally leaked. Very, very unfair,” he stated, not mentioning the Iran deal at all.
Notably, journalists from big media houses such as The New York Times, the Washington Post and televisions networks including CNN and CBS were ignored during the press conference.
Meanwhile CIA Director Mike Pompeo held secret talks with Palestinian officials in the West Bank Tuesday evening, during which Palestinian sources told Haaretz that Pompeo and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Syria.
They were the first top-level talks between a Trump administration official and the Palestinians.
"The Americans needed to understand that the collapse of the PA — in such a manner that there will be no way to implement the two-state solution, as quite a few elements in the Netanyahu government are striving for — will lead to the entry of extremist elements, perhaps associated with Iran," a Palestinian source told Haaretz.
Further, in a statement, Abbas on Wednesday “affirmed its continuing commitment to the two-state option, international law and legitimacy, which should ensure the end of the Israeli occupation, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, living in peace and security next to the State of Israel on the June 1967 borders,” adding that Abbas is ready “to deal positively with the Donald Trump administration to make peace.”