Trump and Netanyahu to hold first White House talks

Netanyahu to meet Trump at White House, as US suggests it may abandon efforts of creating independent Palestinian state.

US President Donald Trump will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Wednesday, their first meeting since the inauguration and one that could shape policy in the region for years ahead.

Trump and Netanyahu are likely to discuss peace efforts between Israel and Palestine, as well as expanding settlements, the Iran nuclear deal and the war in Syria.

Trump’s campaign pledge to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that would infuriate Palestinians and the Muslim world, will also be a discussion point.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump was working to achieve a comprehensive agreement ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The way forward toward that goal will also be discussed between the president and the prime minister,” he said.

Trump, who is relentlessly pro-Israel and has repeatedly spoken disparagingly about Palestinians has challenged the legitimacy of Palestinian demands for a state.

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On Tuesday, a White House official said that Trump supported the goal of peace between the Israel and the Palestinians, even if it does not involve the two-state solution.

A two-state solution – the idea of Israel and Palestine living side-by-side and at peace – has been the bedrock of US diplomacy for the past two decades.

While Netanyahu has said he is committed to a two-state goal, he has broadly reiterated the aim since bringing it up since 2009.

The right-wing Israeli leader has spoken of a “state minus,” suggesting he could offer the Palestinians deep-seated autonomy and the trappings of statehood without full sovereignty.

The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, with the capital in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war.

Hanan Ashrawi, an executive member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the Trump administration’s stance on the two-state solution “does not make sense”.

“This is not a responsible policy and it does not serve the cause of peace,” she told AFP news agency.

“They cannot just say that without an alternative,” she added.

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Netanyahu, who is under investigation at home over allegations of abuse of office, spent much of Tuesday huddled with senior advisers in Washington preparing for the talks.

Officials said that they wanted no gaps to emerge between US and Israeli thinking during the scheduled two-hour Oval Office meeting.

The Israeli prime minister is also scheduled to have breakfast on Thursday with Vice President Mike Pence before returning to Israel.

American presidents have long maintained a close friendship with Israel, lavishing the country with aid and advanced weaponry.

But Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, also highlighted Israeli actions seen as undermining peace efforts, such as expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies