US President Donald Trump reportedly told Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the White House a few weeks ago that, in the absence of a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel will have a prime minister named Mohammed in a few years time.
Trump’s reported remark was detailed on Sunday night by Israel’s Channel 10 news, which described it as “sarcastic” and “semi-jocular,” but also as containing a grain of truth. The TV channel said its report had been confirmed by an Israeli and a former US official who had both been briefed on the White House meeting, but that the White House and the Jordanian Embassy in Washington, DC, have refused to comment on it.
According to Channel 10’s Barak Ravid, who later Sunday posted an English version of his story on the Axios website where he cited unnamed “French diplomats” as his source, the US president’s face-to-face comment to Abdullah was in turn relayed by the Jordanian king to the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian, during a meeting they had in Amman on August 2.
Relating for Le Drian his White House conversation with the US president in late June, Abdullah reportedly said he had told Trump, “Many young Palestinians don’t want the two-state solution anymore, but would rather live together with the Israelis in one state with equal rights for all… The result will be that Israel will lose its Jewish character”.
Trump reportedly then replied, “What you say makes sense. … [In a one-state scenario,] the prime minister of Israel in a few years will be called Mohammed.”
Elsewhere in the conversation, as quoted by the TV report, the king reportedly urged Trump, “Don’t present your [peace] plan now: There are too many difficulties right now. There’s no need to hurry to present the American peace plan.”
To which Trump, unimpressed, reportedly responded: “I want to advance a peace agreement in the Middle East, because if my administration cannot achieve a deal, no administration will be able to.”
The monarch also reportedly complained that he had yet to even see the much-anticipated US proposal, and neither had anyone in Europe. As described in the Axios report, “The king said he stressed to Trump that, in order for the peace plan to be acceptable, it must be presented first to the relevant European and Arab states in order to get their input, and complained that this still hasn’t happened.”
The Channel 10 report presented the ostensible content of the conversation in Hebrew only. It said Trump had been speaking sarcastically and half-jokingly when he talked of an Israeli prime minister named Mohammed, but noted that there is a grain of truth in every joke.
Many Israeli advocates of an accommodation with the Palestinians have long warned that if Israel cannot find a way to separate from the Palestinians, it risks losing its Jewish character or undermining its democracy. While Israel’s population is about three-quarters Jewish, there are almost as many non-Jews as Jews in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip combined.
In public remarks when he welcomed Abdullah to the White House on June 25, Trump said that a “lot of progress” had been made in the Middle East, but did not identify specific areas of improvement. Abdullah had recently met in Jordan with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, who has been working on the US peace proposal.
Trump ignored a question about when he would make the plan public, but said “we’re doing very well” in the Middle East.
Kushner, who had also just met with other top regional officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has said the plan will be released soon. It is likely to face stiff opposition from the Palestinians, who cut contact with the US in the wake of Trumps’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
During his tour in the region, Kushner did not meet with any Ramallah officials, who have refused to meet US representatives since the December decision on Jerusalem.
Palestinian officials have also voiced harsh criticism of Trump and his envoys.
The pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom reported at the time of Abdullah’s visit to Washington that senior officials in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have indicated to the US team that they are prepared to back the Trump administration peace plan even if the Palestinian Authority rejects it. There was no confirmation of that report, which quoted unnamed sources in Cairo and Amman.