Trump to Netanyahu: "Hold back on the settlements a bit"

Want to bet Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t see this one coming? During their joint press conference at the first summit meeting between Israel and the US, Donald Trump hailed Netanyahu as a man of peace and strength and his country as worthy of recognition for its greatness. Just one thing, Trump added — maybe Israel could “hold back on the settlements for a little bit”?

President Trump called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday to temporarily freeze construction of settlements, which its government has been rapidly expanding in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

At a joint news conference between the two leaders from East Room of the White House, Mr. Trump said that he is asking Israel to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

Netanyahu responded, “we’ll try.” Mr. Trump then commented that his reaction didn’t sound too optimistic. The prime minister was later asked to respond to Mr. Trump’s request, and he said that the issue of settlements is “not the core of the conflict, nor does it drive the conflict.”

If that threw Netanyahu, he didn’t give much indication of it — not even after Trump’s tease about not being optimistic about it. On the other hand, Palestinians made no secret of their dismay over Trump’s suggestion that the two-state solution is not necessarily going to be an official American position in the new administration. Trump told the media that he will be more open to whatever solution can work between Israel and the Palestinians, which they took to mean that the US no longer backed the idea of a sovereign Palestinian state:

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like,” he said.

“I can live with either one. I thought for a while it looked like the two-state, looked like it may be the easier of the two, but honestly if Bibi and if the Palestinians if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best,” Trump said, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname. …

“If the Trump administration rejects this policy it would be destroying the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility abroad,” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in response to the U.S. official’s remarks.

“Accommodating the most extreme and irresponsible elements in Israel and in the White House is no way to make responsible foreign policy,” she said in a statement.

The problem is that chances for peace seem to be approaching zero anyway, a point Trump explicitly made in response to a question from Townhall’s Katie Pavlich. The Palestinians still teach hatred of Jews and the annihilation of Israel in its schools, and until that stops, no one can possibly take their claims to be committed to peace seriously, Trump said:

I think the Palestinians have to get rid of some of that hate that they’re taught from a very young age. They’re taught tremendous hate. I’ve seen what they’re taught. You can talk about flexibility there too, but it starts at a very young age and it starts in the school room. And they have to acknowledge Israel. They’re going to have to do that. There’s no way a deal can be made if they’re not ready to acknowledge a very, very great and important country. And I think they’re going to be willing to do that also, but now I also believe we’re going to have, Katie, other players at a very high level and I think it might make it easier on both the Palestinians and Israel to get something done, okay?

I suspect that the Palestinians will have much less to say about that.

By the way, it’s interesting to see the media in full freak-out mode that Katie got one of the two questions today. Allahpundit will have more later on this topic, but just to give readers a taste now, Chris Cillizza thinks that a lack of calling on mainstream outlets “should terrify you,” and CNN’s Jim Acosta told his colleague John King that “the fix is in” at the White House. I’ll just note that despite many snide tweets about Katie getting chosen at the presser, the question to Trump was actually on point and not in any way, shape, or form a suck-up question. You know, like this one from eight years ago: