President Donald Trump said he would support the peace agreement Israel and Palestinians “like the best” in a joint press conference during which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu railed against Palestinian efforts to reach a deal.
"I’m looking at two state and one state. And I like the one that both parties like," Trump said when asked about a peace agreement.
Trump's meeting with Netanyahu on Wednesday was aninitial test of Trump's campaign pledge to go further than President Obama in strengthening the relationship with Israel. By the end of Obama's tenure in office, his relationship with Netanyahu was extremely strained and then-Secretary of State John Kerry blasted the Israeli government in an unprecedented speech before leaving that role.
Trump said the U.S. was looking "very, very strongly" at moving the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the disputed holy city that both Palestinians and Israelis lay claim to. The move would anger both Palestinians and Arab nations in what would be one of the strongest displays of U.S. support for Israel in recent times.
But while Trump and Netanyahu agreed on many points, the two leaders did show some difference on the issue of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and West Bank that have been condemned by the United Nations.
“I would like you to hold back on settlements for a little bit,” Trump said.
Trump's efforts to improve relations could potentially be aided by son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a political novice, who attended the press conference with his wife, Ivanka.
"I've known the president and his family for a long time and there's no greater support of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump," Netanyahu said during the press conference.
Netanyahu began the press conference by praising the new president for renewing the bond between the allies. The Israeli leader said "both sides" need to work towards peace and slammed Palestinians for their "hate" of Israel.
"They continue to call for Israel’s destruction inside their schools, inside their mosques, inside their textbooks. You have to read it to believe it," Netanyahu said.
Trump said he believes Israel wants a peace deal, but added, "the Palestinians have to get rid of some of the hate that they're taught at a young age. They’re taught tremendous hate. I’ve seen what they're taught."
Trump also chastised the media for its coverage of National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who resigned amid revelations of his pre-inauguration conversations with a Russian ambassador.
Trump, who asked for Flynn's resignation, had been treated unfairly by the press. The president didn't call on any mainstream media and only took questions largely from ideologically-conservative-leaning media outlets during the press conference.
"Gen. Flynn is a wonderful man, I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media — as I call it, the ‘fake media,’ in many cases. And I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly…," Trump said.
Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted reports about his administration’s ties to Russia were an attempt to “cover-up” the mistake of rival Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid. He accused cable news of “going crazy with their conspiracy theories and blind hatred.”
Trump has been scrutinized by members of both parties for his kind views and defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the issue came to a head this week when Flynn resigned late Monday after admitting to misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other top administration officials about the nature of his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump’s inauguration.
Flynn told Pence he did not discuss the possibility of lifting sanctions against Russia with the ambassador, a claim Pence then repeated in interviews. U.S. intelligence officials in January told Trump that Flynn did discuss the the sanctions imposed after Russia’s cyber intrusions in the 2016 campaign, and the retired general’s attempts to convince administration officials otherwise could subject him to blackmail.
Democrats have called for an investigation into Flynn, questioning why he was able to remain on the job for nearly three weeks after intelligence officials first informed Trump of Flynn’s error. Pence did not learn he had been misinformed until February 9.