What exactly did US President Donald Trump mean when he told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “hold back” on the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank? Has a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict really been dropped from the Trump administration’s agenda, and, if so, how does Washington intend to broker a peace agreement in the region?
As Netanyahu heads back to the Jewish state following his first meeting with Trump since the latter took office, Israel’s leading Hebrew-language newspapers wrestle with these questions, and contemplate how the new American president may reshape geopolitics in the stretch of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
“We will reach an understanding with the White House over construction [in the West Bank],” reads Israel Hayom’s main headline, in a quote attributed to a member of the prime minister’s delegation to Washington. While the concerns of the right-wing paper’s typical readership may at first glance be somewhat relieved by this quote, the underline provides a more nuanced breakdown of the situation. “As per the request of the Americans: Netanyahu will reconsider building a new settlement to compensate the evacuated residents of Amona.”
Netanyahu’s reported reevaluation comes despite an agreement signed ahead of the evacuation earlier this month, according to which the Amona residents were allowed to pick a new West Bank site to rebuild their community — the first state-sanctioned new settlement to be built in decades. The daily warns that the former residents of Amona maintain that if the new reports are true, they will not let the decision pass without protest.
Haaretz, committed as always to the two-state solution, leads with a headline assuring readers that American diplomats insist the Trump administration has not turned its back on decades of official US policy. Writer Nehemia Shtrasler points out that Trump is set on signing a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians — and even put Netanyahu on the spot by reminding him that any lasting peace agreement would require concessions on the part of the Jewish state.
“You understand that, don’t you?” Trump told Netanyahu during their joint press conference in Washington.
Even if the two-state solution is no longer on the table, that does not mean Israel’s West Bank policy won’t have to undergo some major changes, Shtrasler adds. He concludes — like almost every other contributor to Haaretz’s weekend edition — that the right’s celebrations of Trump’s apparent stance toward Israel may not be warranted in the long run.
Yedioth Aharonoth, whose editors are not known for their love of Trump, highlights the very awkward exchange between the president and ultra-Orthodox reporter Jake Turx who asked about a spike in anti-Semitic incidents. “It’s not a simple question, not a fair question,” Trump said. “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you have ever seen in your entire life.” He also said he was the “least racist person.” Turx, a reporter for Ami Magazine, insisted he did not believe Trump was anti-Semitic, yet the president shouted him down: “Quiet, quiet, quiet.”
The paper tackles the question of the future of the two-state solution as well, and discusses the stormy confirmation hearing for David Friedman, Trump’s nominee to serve as ambassador to Israel. Friedman, who has been a vocal advocate of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, walked back some of his previous statements, notably his incendiary comparison of J Street supporters to kapos, and expressed support for a two-state solution.
“I would be delighted to see peace come to this region where people have suffered on both sides for so long,” Friedman told the Senate hearing. “I have expressed my skepticism about the two-state solution solely on the basis of what I have perceived as unwillingness to renounce terror and accept Israel as a Jewish state.”
Yedioth seems to assume that the coverage of Netanyahu’s visit to Washington and his meeting with Trump would not be complete without a mention of the two leaders’ wives, and a thorough analysis of their fashion choices. The daily discusses the intricacies of the pink dress suit Sara Netanyahu wore to the White House, asserting that the color was chosen to evoke memories of Jackie Kennedy’s iconic garment on the day her husband, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated.
Netanyahu’s hair stylist Jan Cohen adds that the outfit was also designed to compliment First Lady Melania Trump’s fashion style. “We didn’t know what Melania would wear; but we know her style, clean lines, still colors.” When asked whether the pink dress had anything to do with Sara’s alleged love of pink champagne, the stylist firmly replied, “ridiculous.” Benjamin Netanyahu is currently under investigation over claims, firmly denied, that he and she illicitly received hundreds of thousands of shekels worth of the French bubbly among other gifts.