MESOP NEWS TOP OF THE AGENDA : Netanyahu, Trump Meet as White House Signals Policy Shift / Click for CFR – New York Times & Financial Times Commentaries below

U.S. President Donald J. Trump is set to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington today (Al Jazeera) before the Israeli leader meets with lawmakers from both parties. A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the administration believed that a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not need to include a two-state solution (NYT), a position that would break from long-standing U.S. policy. CIA director Mike Pompeo reportedly held secret talks in Ramallah (AP) on Wednesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Trump’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, faces a Senate confirmation hearing (WSJ) tomorrow. He has called the two-state solution an “illusion.”


“[Trump] is taking a decidedly different approach in launching his efforts than that of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, who announced his intention of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with fanfare just two days after his inauguration. In contrast, President Trump is gradually revealing his intentions while consulting in an uncharacteristically low-key fashion with regional partners. Yet Donald Trump, in one stark and unmistakable way, is no different than the eight presidents that preceded him: He is clearly and unambiguously a peace-processor,” writes CFR’s Robert M. Danin.

“The resignation of Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, deprives Mr. Netanyahu of his strongest ally inside the White House for raising pressure on Iran. And the emergence of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, as an aspiring Middle East peacemaker has increased the president’s appetite for a peace initiative between the Israelis and Palestinians—something Mr. Netanyahu is not especially eager to discuss. Given the still-fluid nature of the Trump administration and its policies, Mr. Netanyahu’s visit is likely to be more symbolic than substantive,” Mark Landler writes for the New York Times.

“Some Israelis thought Mr Trump had been influenced by King Abdullah of Jordan, whom he met in Washington this month.  Administration officials have made clear they will seek the support of Arab allies such as Jordan—whose help Mr Trump also needs in his promised fight against Isis—in efforts to reach a broader regional peace deal. But if Washington endorses untrammelled Jewish settlement in the West Bank, or pursues effective recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital it will only inflame tensions in the Middle East,” John Reed writes for the Financial Times.