WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signaled a restart in U.S.-Israeli relations at a joint news conference Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at which Trump said he is not wedded to the concept of a two-state solution for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“I’m looking at a two-state and a one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said. “ . . . I can live with either one.”
Right-leaning Israeli lawmakers have pressured Netanyahu to abandon the solution for a separate Palestinian state.
Trump’s stance is a departure from that of President Barack Obama, who said he did not see an alternative to improve relations in the region.
Trump also condemned what he said is “hatred” toward Israel taught to Palestinians at a “very young age,” echoing a sentiment by Netanyahu.
But he told the prime minister, “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
Since Trump’s election, Netanyahu has approved construction of 6,000 settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, settlements that have drawn international condemnation.
Asked about anti-Semitism and xenophobia in the United States, Trump discussed his Electoral College victory.
It was Netanyahu who answered the question more directly, saying, “There is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Trump.”
The prime minister spoke during the news conference about having known Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, since Kushner was young.
Trump has said that Kushner, who was seated in the front row at the event, could broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel’s far right increasingly has pushed the idea of a single Israeli state of both Arabs and Jews, and control of the disputed West Bank, Golan Heights and other areas captured by Israel during the 1967 war.
Palestinians see much of that land as theirs and insist on a separate sovereign state.
Other critics, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, note that Palestinians would soon outnumber Jews in a single-state scenario. They could use the ballot box to take control, unless Israel abandons its democracy and restricts their rights the way South Africa once barred blacks from voting under apartheid.
Trump was asked about his campaign pledge to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move considered provocative because both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Trump said he would “love” to see that and was thinking about it “very carefully,” but would not commit to a move date.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II recently warned the White House that moving the embassy would spark widespread unrest that could threaten his government, a major U.S. ally in the region.
As expected, Netanyahu and Trump were highly critical of the landmark arms-control deal, negotiated by six world powers, including the United States, and Iran in 2015, which eased sanctions against Tehran in exchange for Iran destroying or freezing its nuclear development programs.
Trump vowed to “do more to prevent Iran from ever developing — I mean ever — a nuclear weapon.” But he did not repeat his campaign promise to rip up the deal.