WASHINGTON — Less than one-fourth of his meeting with US President Donald Trump on Monday was devoted to the Palestinian issue, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters hours after the leaders sat down at the White House.
“The issue of the Palestinians came up in the terms I described — the security question,” Netanyahu said. “Not more than quarter of the time [we discussed] the Palestinians.”
The Israeli premier added that the Trump administration has not showed him its much-anticipated peace plan, which officials have said they are finalizing and plan to unveil in the near future. They have given no specific timetable.
Netanyahu, for his part, would not say whether he supported the emergence of a Palestinian state as part of that plan.
“I haven’t named it, but I’ve defined it: The Palestinians should have the power of government, except the power to threaten us,” he said.
Asked by The Times of Israel if he told Trump that he supported, at least in principle, the establishment of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu merely said he told the president didn’t want Israel to rule over Palestinians.
“I said that we have no desire to govern the Palestinians, but we have every desire to protect ourselves,” he said. “The main thing is that the security control west of the Jordan River remains in our hands, and we cannot see anyone else assuming that responsibility.”
“You can go into interpretations, but I don’t care about interpretations,” he went on. “But sloganeering doesn’t accomplish anything. What does that mean? What kind of state are you talking about? Is it Costa Rica or is it Hamastan? Is it Switzerland or is it Iran? Is it demilitarized? Who demilitarizes it? Who guarantees that demilitarization? I’ve said it, there’s only one power that can do it—and that’s Israel. Does that comport with what the world calls a state? I don’t know. But it comports with the solution that I need.”
Responding to a follow-up question over whether he told Trump that it’s essential for Israel to separate from the Palestinians for the sake of preserving its status as a Jewish-majority democracy, Netanyahu said, “I said we don’t want to govern them—and we don’t. I’m not interested in governing them in Nablus or Ramallah.”
Netanyahu was also asked whether Trump ever explained to him what he meant by his past statements that Israel would “pay” for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there. “It didn’t come up,” he said. “Not in this construct.”
Asked if it ever had come up, Netanyahu said he could not recall.
“It certainly didn’t come up today,” he offered.
Despite President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is also his point man on the peace process, recently having had his security clearance downgraded, the Israeli leader said this matter did not come up in their discussions, in which Kushner himself participated. “We did not talk about Kushner,” Netanyahu said.
Cagey regarding Iran — which Netanyahu called “the central issue” — and the specific issue of fixing or nixing the 2015 nuclear deal, Netanyahu said “there are 60 days for the president’s decision” on taking action regarding the accord. “He was very interested in my advice and insights.”
He was referring to the deadline Trump imposed on lawmakers to unilaterally make changes to the 2015 nuclear accord — which Netanyahu vehemently opposes. If those changes are not made, Trump has threatened that he would abrogate the accord.