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Trump and Netanyahu hold substantive talks in Washington

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The US President met the Israeli Prime Minister at the White House yesterday for their first official meeting.

President Donald Trump reaffirmed the “unbreakable bond with our cherished ally, Israel” and said “the partnership between our two countries built on our shared values has advanced the cause of human freedom, dignity and peace”. He concluded that “the state of Israel is a symbol to the world of resilience in the face of oppression”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that “Israel has no better ally than the United States” and looked forward to dramatically upgrading relations strengthening the Israeli-US alliance.

When asked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Trump departed from 15 years of US policy and expressed no preference for a two-state solution.

He said: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.”

He reiterated his desire for peace and a comprehensive agreement, a ‘great peace deal’ in which ‘both sides will have to make compromises’. Trump turned to Prime Minister Netanyahu and said: “I’d like you to hold off settlements for a bit.”

Netanyahu set out two prerequisites for peace: Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and Israeli security control over the entire area west of the Jordan River.

Both leaders said they would work on a regional peace initiative building on the convergence of interests between Israel and some Sunni Arab states to counter the threat from Iran and potentially assist an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

On Iran, Trump said: “One of the worst deals I’ve ever seen is the Iran deal.  My administration has already imposed new sanctions on Iran, and I will do more to prevent Iran from ever developing, I mean ever, a nuclear weapon.”

Netanyahu said that preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons was something that “President Trump and I think are deeply committed to do” and that they were “obviously” going to discuss it during their meeting.

After the meeting, the White House confirmed that the leaders “discussed the issue of Israeli settlement construction and agreed to continue those discussions and work out an approach that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security”.

Netanyahu told Israeli reporters in a separate briefing that he had no intention of annexing the West Bank and would consider Trump’s request to rein in settlement activity.