President Donald Trump retreated from more than two decades of US policymaking in the Middle East on Wednesday when he said the two-state solution was not the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
At a news conference with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Trump promised to deliver a “great” peace deal, but said both sides must compromise.
The Israelis and Palestinians have had no substantive peace talks since 2014.
Flanked by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, Mr Trump said he was looking at a solution that would “take in many countries and would cover a much larger territory”.
“I am looking at two-states and one-state [solutions], and I like the one that both parties like,” Mr Trump said, before the two leaders held their first official meeting.
Israel has approved thousands of new homes in West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements since Mr Trump took office last month.
The Israeli government is hoping for better relations with the White House after eight years of friction with the former Obama administration.
At Wednesday’s press conference, neither leader committed explicitly to back a future independent Palestine, a longstanding bedrock of US policy.
A “two-state solution” to the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is the declared goal of their leaders and the international community.
It is the shorthand for a final settlement that would see the creation of an independent state of Palestine within pre-1967 ceasefire lines in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, living peacefully alongside Israel.
The UN, the Arab League, the European Union, Russia and, until now, the US routinely restate their commitment to the concept.
Mr Trump was also asked about his election promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which could have serious implications for any peace negotiations.
“As far as the embassy moving to Jerusalem, I’d love to see that happen,” Mr Trump said.
“And we’re looking at it very, very strongly. We’re looking at it with a great care, a great care, believe me.
And we’ll see what happens.”
When he was asked about a two-state solution, Mr Netanyahu said he wanted to focus on “substance” and not “labels”.
“There are two prerequisites for peace,” said the Israeli prime minister. “First the Palestinians must recognise the Jewish state.
“Second, in any peace agreement, Israel must retain the overriding security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River.”
It was the US and Israeli leaders’ first face-to-face meeting since Mr Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election.
A retreat from US backing for a two-state solution would upend decades of American – and international – policy embraced by Republican and Democratic administrations.
On Tuesday, a senior White House official signalled a potential policy shift by saying peace did not necessarily have to entail Palestinian statehood, and that Mr Trump would not try to “dictate” a solution.
More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem – land Palestinians claim for a future state.
The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Source: Daily Sun, Dhaka, Bangladesh