Trump dropped a bombshell with his sudden support for the two-state solution, exposing deep political fault lines within Israel.
Israel's political scene faced upheaval after Trump’s most recent comments on the Palestinian-Israeli struggle, where he surprised Israelis and the world by supporting the two-state solution.
Trump stated, "I like the two-state solution. Yeah. That's what I think… that's what I think works best," he s.
At the press conference this Wednesdy he also asserted that he believed the Palestinians would return to the negotiating table, "100 percent". His confidence is likely inspired by far-reaching cuts he made to Palestinian aid and funding in recent weeks.
“I think the two states will happen. I think we’re going to go down the two-states road,” he said while comparing it to a "real estate deal”.
“I think it will happen. I think we’ll get a deal,” he said. He also commented that Netanyahu was “very nice” to him during their meeting.
Israel responded cautiously to Trump’s statement, by emphasising ties between the two nations and Trump’s strong positions on Iran’s nuclear project.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters afterwards that he was not surprised by US President Donald Trump's remark that he now supports a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stating, "everyone defines the term 'state' differently."
"I am willing for the Palestinians to have the authority to rule themselves without the authority to harm us," said Netanyahu while noting that he believes any American plan would be based on this principle.
His position has changed significantly since his controversial 2009 "Bar Ilan" speech where he outlined his vision for a demilitarised Palestinian state. He is now forced to make clear his position on the two-state solution ahead of upcoming elections in early 2019.
Third, this is the first time that we meet after the American Embassy has been moved to Jerusalem. You've changed history, and you've touched our hearts. pic.twitter.com/iL47Ks0FXX— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) September 26, 2018
Reactions from Israelis were mixed, with key members of the ruling coalition expressing a rejection of the proposal.
Chief among them is Avigdor Liberman, Israeli Minister of Defence, and an established right-wing war hawk.
"I don’t care about a Palestinian State...The Palestinian State simply does not interest me, what interests me is the Jewish state.”
Further strong rejections were seen from within the Israeli right and leader of the Jewish Home Party, Naftali Bennett who stated: “The American president is a dedicated friend to Israel, but so long as we are in the government, a Palestinian state will never be formed.”
Betzeliel Smutrich, Knesset member, took a harder position when he stated that, “Trump does not understand the nuances of the struggle in the Middle East, and it would be strange if he repeats the mistakes of his presidential predecessors and tries to find a solution that isn’t based on creating a hostile terrorist entity that will continue to call on the destruction of Israel.”
Smutrich further commented, “The Israeli government and its leadership must begin working on new solutions not based on division of land, promoting Arab nationalist dreams on the “land of Isreal”, and convincing the American administration not to compromise the struggle with a two-state solution… attempting an adventure we know will fail beforehand.”
The Zionist Union, which leads the opposition, currently holds 24 seats, the Joint (Arab) List has 13, and Jewish Home has eight parliamentary seats.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak also took to Twitter to express his support for the sudden pivot that upset so many Israelis at odds with Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Thank you, President Trump, for standing with Israel and siding with the most realistic solution for our security and our future - the two-state solution. The majority of Israelis share the same vision. @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/sbOmR5N28u— אהוד ברק (@barak_ehud) September 26, 2018
Tamar Zandberg, Chairwoman of the Meretz party, stated “Trump said he is 100% with Israel, and supported the two-state solution. Netanyahu…do you hear? The two-states is an Israeli solution.”
The Peace Now movement also added, “Trump put an end to the rumours and himself supported the only final realistic solution to the conflict. Trump is aware that the two-state solution is good for Israel. This is an opportunity for Netanyahu to respond to Mahmoud Abass’s call for renewed negotiations, while the right’s political base is required to not see the American president as a saviour or that any other solution exists, and the end of the policy of encroachment on Palestinian lands occupied in 1967.”
I appreciate President Trump’s remarks relating to Israel’s future – the steadfast support of the US towards Israel’s security and his support for a two nation-state solution. Both are important for our future— ציפי לבני (@Tzipi_Livni) September 26, 2018
Palestinians have long sought to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Israel occupied the lands during the 1967 Middle East war while capturing East Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally. Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital without condition.