President Trump's administration will not demand a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, a senior White House official announced Tuesday, breaking with longstanding U.S. policy on peace proposals for the tumultuous region.
"A two-state solution that doesn't bring peace is not a goal that anybody wants to achieve," the official told reporters during an afternoon briefing on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Wednesday visit to the White House. "Peace is the goal, whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution, if that's what the parties want, or something else."
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the administration will not "dictate" any geopolitical terms for Israel and Palestine, stressing that Trump has "very much indicated" he doesn't believe it would help.
"We're looking at the two sides to come together to make peace together and we'll be there to help them," the official said.
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The announcement proves a stark contrast to opinions held by former President Barack Obama, who said during his final news conference last month that he believes a two-state solution to be the only option for lasting peace.
"I think the status quo is unsustainable, that it is dangerous for Israel, that it is bad for Palestinians, it is bad for the region, and it is bad for America's national security," Obama said at the time.
Until Trump, every White House administration for the past two decades has supported a two-state solution.
Palestinian officials were stunned by the Trump official's remarks.
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"This does not make sense," Hanan Ashrawi, an executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told AFP early Wednesday. "This is not a responsible policy and it does not serve the cause of peace. They cannot just say that without an alternative."
Netanyahu, who for years held a contentious relationship with Obama, will sit down with Trump at the White House on Wednesday morning. Major talking points for the two leaders will include Iran and Trump's pledge to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to the senior official.
The two leaders will also discuss the UN Security Council's December resolution to condemn Israeli settlements on occupied land. Obama received bipartisan criticism for allowing the resolution to pass as one of his final acts in office.
"The posture that the U.S. takes at the UN under this administration would be to veto anything that is biased against Israel," the official said. "So we view the vote that took place as biased against Israel."
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In a surprising move earlier this month, Trump told Netanyahu to hold off on constructions of new settlements, saying that he believes it might not be "helpful" in achieving peace. The request came after Netanyahu had announced plans to build over 6,000 new settlement homes.
The Israeli leader was emboldened by Trump's election and has praised a number of his policies, including the controversial executive order on immigration that temporarily barred citizens of seven Muslim majority nations from entering the U.S.
The senior official told reporters the administration is "super excited" about Netanyahu's visit, adding Trump will "usher in a new relationship between Israel and the United States — something that Israel has not seen in well over eight years."Send a Letter to the Editor