Leading US newspapers took US President Donald Trump to task on Thursday over his comments a day earlier in which he declared that the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not be the only way forward and that he was prepared to consider other options — including a one-state formula — if it was accepted by the two sides.
In a barrage of editorials, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times described Trump’s statements as “nonsensical” and the idea of a one state solution as “absurd,” and said that by withdrawing from decades-old US policy the president was instead increasing the chances of violent conflict.
The editorials, coming as much of the US media was focused on reported ties between Trump officials and the Kremlin and the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn, suggested that Trump’s pullback from the two-state solution had managed to hoist the issue near the top of a list of concerns for many in the US.
Standing alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference in the White House before the two men met privately on Wednesday, Trump had bucked America’s longstanding commitment to a two-state solution.
“I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he said, showing enthusiasm for Netanyahu’s call for a regional initiative that relied on Israel’s improving relationships with Arab countries.
Trump said the two have been discussing a regional deal, and noted it “would take in many, many countries.”
The comments came amid renewed speculation that Sunni Arab states would be prepared to work with Israel in light of regional opposition to Iran.
A New York Times editorial called Trump‘s statement “nonsensical” and “dangerous.”
“He offered no details on any peace initiative, and the vagueness of his remarks suggests he has no inkling of how to move forward. His willingness, however, to lend credence to those who would deny a separate state to the Palestinians will certainly make peace harder to achieve,” the editorial board wrote.
“Given what Mr. Trump said on Wednesday, there is less reason than ever to believe that he can succeed where so many other presidents have failed,” the editorial concluded.
The Washington Post described Trump’s shift in policy as “a dangerous retreat” that made the chances for peace even less likely “and increased the chances that one of the few relatively peaceful corners of the region will return to conflict.”
There is, the editorial noted, “no workable one-state formula” in which Israel can be both a Jewish state and democratic.
Trump, by adopting a regional plan initiative that bypasses the Palestinians, is being “naive” and is setting himself up for “diplomatic failure,” the paper wrote.
Both papers credited Trump for trying to rein in Israel’s settlement expansion, which was given a boost from recent announcements of plans to construct thousands of housing units in West Bank settlements.
During their press conference together Trump issued a good-humored warning to Netanyahu over his government’s continued West Bank settlement construction, turning to the Israeli premier and saying, “I’d like you to hold off on settlements for a little bit.”
The LA Times said that Trump had “demolished” the two-state solution and described the idea of Israelis and Palestinians agreeing to a one-state outcome “absurd.”
“A single state that would be agreeable to both sides isn’t the ‘ultimate deal’ of Trump’s imaginings; it’s the ultimate fantasy,” the newspaper said.
Following Trump’s statement, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would stay committed to working with Trump on a two-state solution. However, in Israel and elsewhere, many saw his words as the death knell of the formula, which has been adopted by the US and international community as the sole way forward for the better part of half a century.
In a briefing after his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu did not explicitly renounce his own commitment to a two-state solution, arguing that his position “hasn’t changed” since his seminal 2009 speech on the matter. He also avoided explicitly mentioning Palestinian statehood.
However, the prime minister repeatedly dodged questions as to whether his Bar-Ilan speech stance was still valid or whether he still endorses a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu also indicated a willingness to consider the US president’s call to rein in settlement construction. Later, however, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying he did no such thing.
Raphael Ahren and Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.