WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/AP) — President Trump had his first White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday, discussing the state of the middle east nation and a path towards peace.
The joint press conference before their private meeting was dominated by the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but briefly touched upon Iran and the nuclear deal President Obama helped push forth in 2015.
“The security challenges faced by Israel are enormous, including the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which I’ve talked a lot about,” said President Trump. “One of the worst deals I’ve ever seen.”
Trump went on to say that the U.S.’s security assistance to Israel is “currently at an all-time high, ensuring that Israel has the ability to defend itself from threats, of which there are, unfortunately, many.”
Trump then turned his attention on the United Nations, rejecting what he called the “one-sided and unfair actions” against Israel, and vowed to work with both Israel and Palestine on a peace deal.
“As with any successful negotiation, both sides will have to make compromises. You know that, right,” Trump asked of Netanyahu, which got a slight chuckle from the reporters in the room.
Trump’s suggestion was to “hold back on (West Bank) settlements for a little bit.”
“The Israelis are going to show some flexibility,” the president said. “They have to show they really want to make a deal.”
Palestinians must also show the same desire, he added, saying they “have to get rid of some of the hate that they’re taught from a very young age.”
Netanyahu repeatedly expressed his confidence in Mr. Trump’s leadership and that they would “dramatically upgrade” their alliance in the fields of security, technology and trade, among others. He hoped it would also lead to a better relationship with the rest of the world.
“I certainly welcome your forthright call to ensure that Israel is treated fairly in international forums,” said Netanyahu. “And that the slander and boycotts of Israel are resisted mightily by the power and moral position of the United States of America.”
Both leaders insisted that their goals were mutual.
“Our alliance is based on a deep bond of common values and common interests,” he continued. “And increasingly, those values and interests are under attack by one malevolent force… radical Islamic terror.”
The Israeli Prime Minister lightly touched upon the two-state solution and once again reiterated his prerequisites for peace that he laid out several years ago.
“Rather than deal with labels, I want to deal with substance,” Netanyahu said. “First, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state. They have to stop calling for Israel’s destruction. They have to stop educating their people for Israel’s destruction. Second, in any peace agreement, Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan river. Because if we don’t, we know what will happen. Because otherwise we’ll get another radical terrorist state in the Palestinian areas, exploding the peace, exploding the middle east.”
Palestine, Netanyahu said, “vehemently rejects” both of these prerequisites for peace, denying their historical significance to the Jewish homeland.
“Why are the Jews called Jews,” he asked rhetorically. “The Chinese are called Chinese because they come from China. The Japanese are called Japanese because they come from Japan. Well, Jews are called Jews because they come from Judea. This is our ancestral homeland. Jews are not foreign colonialists in Judea.”
Earlier in the press conference, Trump said he would be fine with either a one-state or two-state solution, provided it satisfied both parties.
In his campaign for president, Trump called to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.