President Donald Trump asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit” as a step toward achieving a peace deal with the Palestinians.
During a joint press conference with Netanyahu on Wednesday, the pair were asked about “the settlement issue” and whether or not they were on the same page.
“As far as settlements, I would like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit,” Trump said, turning to face Netanyahu. “We will work something out. But I would like to see a deal be made. I think a deal will be made. I know that every president would like to, most of them have not started until late because they never thought it was possible.”
“And it wasn’t possible, because they didn’t do it,” Trump continued. “But Bibi and I have known each other a long time. Smart man, great negotiator. And I think we’re going to make a deal. It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand. That’s a possibility. So let’s see what we do.”
When Netanyahu failed to respond substantively, Trump said, “Doesn’t sound too optimistic but that’s OK. He’s a good negotiator.”
Asked later whether they still supported the two-state solution, Trump said he would support whichever deal both parties supported.
“I am looking at the two-state, and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he said. “I am very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while that two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi, and the Palestinians— If Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I am happy with the one they like the best.”
Netanyahu responded to the same question by avoiding answering directly. He did say any deal would have to involve Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, and that “Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan river.”
This post has been updated.