President Donald Trump surprised many on Wednesday with a call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to suspend settlement activity in disputed territory.
According to NPR, the call came during a joint press conference with the president and Israeli leader at the White House.
“I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out, but I would like to see a deal be made,” Trump said when he was asked about Israeli settlements.
NPR reported that Netanyahu seemed to say “Let’s try it” and waved Trump off. “Doesn’t sound too optimistic, but he’s a good negotiator,” Trump responded.
WATCH: Pres. Trump turns to Israeli PM Netanyahu and tells him that “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements.” https://t.co/pB2FMliqcB
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) February 15, 2017
The White House seemed to back off later, with Business Insider reporting in a statement that the Trump administration has “not taken an official position on settlement activity.”
However, the news conference was one of the first signs that President Trump’s Israel policy might not be quite what we were promised by candidate Trump.
To be fair, there was a lot for everyone to dislike about the press conference. Liberals were especially disturbed by the fact that Trump seemed to backing away from the two-state solution in his remarks.
“So I’m looking at two-state and one-state — and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one,” Trump said. “I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two, but, honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
However, Trump’s take on settlements — a position conservatives and supporters of the Jewish state have long contended is an internal matter for the Israelis to decide — is definitely going to rankle some feathers.
Donald Trump ran as a friend of the Israeli people. We do not believe he said this in a knowingly mendacious manner. However, we will say the same thing to him that we said to former Secretary of State John Kerry when he lectured Israel on settlements: An American offical cannot say he is an unequivocal friend of Israel and then bow to international pressure on behalf of a people that has consistently called for Israel’s annihilation.
When the Palestinian Authority unequivocally renounces violence and terrorism and recognizes the eternal right of Israel to exist, that will be a different issue. Until then, we recognize the authority of the Israelis to build settlements — or not — as they see fit.
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H/T The Right Scoop