Israelis unsure about what Trump just said about the future of their country
Just minutes after President Trump made his first detailed remarks on the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, Israelis began debating exactly what the new American leader meant.
Did Trump signal the end of the “two-state solution,” and the Palestinian dream of an independent nation, or not so much?
Some members of Israel’s right thought that’s what they heard during the White House news conference on Wednesday — but weren’t really sure.
Because Trump also warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that hard choices were on the horizon. Hard choices about what? Israelis wondered.
Trump didn’t say. Instead, he spoke of wanting a deal — but a deal about what? Peace.
And so, a torrent of punditry began.
Israelis were divided. In part, because Trump was touching on the deepest, most divisive, most personal matters in the region — land, religion, the future of a democratic Jewish state.
Many saw a new day. Others felt uneasy.
Some thought the president didn’t seem to know what he was talking about and was just throwing out words and phrases.
“Twitter was on fire after the news conference as tweeters on both sides of the Atlantic and from both sides of the political spectrum tried in both Hebrew and English to interpret the two leaders’ remarks, particularly Trump’s,” wrote Barak Ravid, chief diplomatic correspondent for the Haaretz newspaper.
At least in the eyes of the Trump administration, the president’s statement appears to free Netanyahu from fealty to a goal he publicly backed at the start of the Obama administration.
One state could mean many things. If the Palestinians were given full rights, the vote, passports, this could be a game-changer. But few Israelis imagine that millions of Palestinians could soon be fellow citizens.
“I can live with either one,” Trump said. “I thought for a while that two-state looked like it might be the easier of the two, but . . . if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
Trump didn’t elaborate on what he meant by “easier.” Three major U.S.-backed peace negotiations, as well as other efforts, have been framed around the goal of two states. All failed.
The president’s freewheeling rhetorical style leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and he has no background in the exacting diplomatic language usually used by U.S. officials when discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
One of Netanyahu’s hard-right cabinet members, Justice Minister Aylet Shaked, thought Trump was giving Israel a green light to make plans to annex60 percent of the West Bank where 400,000 Jewish settlers live.
But in an interview, an Israel Radio reporter interjected that Trump also warned Netanyahu about the growth of Jewish settlements on the very land Shaked wants to claim for Israel.