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Netanyahu faces hurdles with drifting Trump

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Naftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu

President Trump on Wednesday casually demolished a pillar of USA foreign policy under both Democratic and Republican administrations: the belief that the way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is for Israel to live side by side in peace with an independent Palestinian state.

While advocates for a two-state solution expressed concerns over the American government reversing its stance on Middle East peacemaking, commentators from ring-wing sites rejoiced over Trump and his apparent pro-Israel point of view.

The "one-state solution" refers to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the creation of a unitary, federal Israeli-Palestinian state, which would cover Israel, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and possibly the Gaza Strip. And it's hard to see either the Israelis or the Palestinians ever agreeing to be a single nation.

So is Netanyahu on board with a one-state solution?

But in recent years, as the process has faltered and Israeli settlements have encroached on more and more of the West Bank, more Palestinians and left-wing Israelis have started arguing that the two populations can no longer be disentangled.

The Jan. 27 statement drew criticism from an array of Jewish groups, including several that otherwise back Trump, and Holocaust historians, who said that while tens of millions were murdered during the period and multiple groups were targeted, the bid to eradicate any trace of the Jews was unique and is the only phenomenon "Holocaust" describes. "Because otherwise, we'll get another radical Islamic terrorist state in the Palestinian areas exploding the peace, exploding the Middle East".

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War - when in Israeli eyes their victory secured the "reunification" of Jerusalem - a sensitive date for Palestinians.

Those measures are of course completely unacceptable to the Palestinians.

Later in the press conference, an Israeli journalist asked about the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States since Trump's election, and what the president would say to those who believe his administration is "playing with xenophobia and maybe racist tones". Question now is what kind of one state: "apartheid or equality". He has said he plans to appoint his son-in-law Jared Kushner, a NY real-estate magnate, to drive his Middle-East policy.

It's a diplomatic and political puzzle that eluded the Obama administration.

"The rules of the game have changed with Donald Trump's arrival as president", said Jerusalem deputy mayor Meir Turgeman last month. Trump went on: "So let's see what we do!"

A spokesperson for Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home Party, said in a written statement: "The Palestinian flag was today lowered from the mast and replaced with the Israeli flag". They have to stop calling for Israel's destruction. He said he would be "very happy" with whatever the Israelis and Palestinians decide.

Another sign of, let us say, Trump's unfamiliarity with the region's politics was his answer to a reporter who asked whether he supported a two-state solution-to which the last several USA presidents have paid allegiance or at least lip service.

"If the Trump administration rejects the two-nation policy it would be destroying the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility overseas", said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

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