Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and King Abdullah II of Jordan agreed Tuesday there could be no concessions on establishing a Palestinian state, the presidency said after talks in Cairo.
The meeting between the leaders of the two Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel came after US President Donald Trump’s administration suggested it would not insist on a Palestinian state for a Middle East peace agreement.
“The two sides discussed ways to push the stagnant Middle East peace process, especially in light of US President Donald Trump’s administration coming to power,” a Cairo presidential statement said.
A two-state solution “with a Palestinian state… with East Jerusalem as its capital is a nationalist principle that cannot be conceded.”
The statement was an apparent response to last week’s meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump, where the president appeared to walk back America’s longstanding commitment to the two-state solution.
“I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he said, showing receptiveness to Netanyahu’s call for a regional initiative that relied on Israel’s improving relationships with Arab countries.
While 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 during their joint press conference.
The US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley later said Washington “absolutely” supports a two-state solution, but was thinking of new ways to push for a peace deal. She added that it would be an “error” to say the US was abandoning its decades-old policy of backing a Palestinian state.
The Trump-Netanyahu press conference caused an uproar in the international community. The UN, EU, Arab League and various nations all emphatically restated their support for two states.
On Monday, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said Netanyahu was still committed to the two-state solution, as outlined in a 2009 Bar Ilan University speech, in which he publicly declared his support for that framework as the way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“It did not change since then. It’s still [the] valid policy of the prime minister of Israel and therefore the government of Israel,” Hanegbi told visiting Jewish American leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in the Knesset, referring to Netanyahu’s address. “The principles of the Bar Ilan speech became more relevant today than at the time they were given. The Middle East is not the Middle East of 2009.”
Hanegbi interpreted Trump’s comment saying he will back one state or two states, whatever the parties seek, as no indication that the president is withdrawing US support for the two-state formula. Rather, Trump was emphasizing that he is unlike his predecessor, former US president Barack Obama, and was saying “‘Hey guys, I’m not going to impose anything on you,'” Hanegbi argued. He pointed to Haley’s subsequent reaffirmation of US support for the two-state solution to underline the point.
On Sunday, Haaretz reported that Netanyahu had rejected a peace proposal, the result of months of negotiations led by then-US secretary of state John Kerry, that culminated in a secret meeting on February 21, 2016, between Netanyahu, Kerry, el-Sissi and King Abdullah in Aqaba.
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.