US President Donald Trump will not give Israel free rein to do what it wants, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israeli ministers who have called on him to rescind his support for a Palestinian state when the two men meet in Washington on Wednesday.“Even after eight years of complex navigation in the tenure of [former US President Barack] Obama, we still need to continue to act wisely with the Trump administration. While it is a more comfortable administration [to work with], there will still be restrictions,” Netanyahu told the ministers in his party, prior to the weekly government meeting. Netanyahu has publicly accepted the principle of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since his public address on the matter at Bar-Ilan University upon entering office in 2009.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
But his coalition’s right flank, the Bayit Yehudi party, as well as members of his own Likud party, have pressured him to back away from that position, particularly given that support for a Palestinian state is not part of the Republican party’s platform.In a meeting of Likud ministers with Netanyahu Sunday, Ze'ev Elkin and Yariv Levin also called upon the premier to disavow his endorsement of a Palestinian state.Yuval Steinitz also commented on the matter, saying that if Netanyahu were to take back his commitment from the Bar-Ilan speech it would harm Israel internationally.Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has spoken about his desire to be the one that would make a deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The White House said that his administration does not believe settlements are a stumbling block to peace. Trump has not condemned Israeli settlement activity, but he has said that it is not helpful. The right-wing has presumed that Netanyahu hopes to come to an agreement with Trump, in which the peace process with the Palestinians would move forward with an understanding that Israel can build in the settlement blocs, but would freeze the isolated settlements.They feel that this is the moment to come up with alternative solutions to the idea of two-states and to speak of imposing Israeli sovereignty, in short, to annex Area C of the West Bank.Prior to the government meeting, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said “The Republican party has taken the idea of a Palestinian state out of its platform. There is no reason for a right-wing Israeli government to be more left than the Republican party.” She called on Netanyahu to present Trump with alternatives to a Palestinian state.In his opening remarks to the government before its closed door session, Netanyahu spoke of his meeting with Trump in which it is expected that three primary topics will be addressed: Iran, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.He spoke globally and did not mention the issue of Palestinian statehood.“Tomorrow I leave for Washington to meet with President Donald Trump. We've known each other for many years, but this is our first meeting in which he is president of the United States and I am the prime mintier of Israel.“This meeting is very important for Israel’s security, and for the State’s of Israel’s international standing, which has been gaining strength,” said Netanyahu. He added that it was significant for Israel’s national interests as well.Netanyahu told the ministers that he has held many consultations in the past days, including with the IDF, the Defense Ministry, the National Security Council and the Foreign Ministry.“I understand that there is a lot of excitement ahead of this meeting and there are many motivations behind this. I have only one motivation — first and foremost to take care of Israel’s security, to strengthen its alliance with the US and to shore up our national interests, which are intimately linked with the strong bond with the US.“This requires a responsible policy, this requires discrete judgment and that is how I am going to operate. I have wisely steered Israeli-US relations and will continue to do so even now.”
Israel looks forward to working with Trump, says Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.