Perhaps the most alarming aspect of Donald Trump’s press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday was not, as it would have been with any other US president, his abandoned commitment to a two-state solution, but the casualness and carelessness with which he dropped it: his jocular tone, fumbling words and evident ignorance of the issue. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like,” he said, brushing aside the trifling matter of how Israelis and Palestinians might come to an agreement in this intractable conflict .
Whether his remarks formed part of a considered strategy is doubtful. Whether his ditching of the commitment was even intentional is unclear. His ambassador to the United Nations has now said the US “absolutely” supports the two-state solution, yet is “thinking out of the box as well”. His administration has sent fluctuating messages on settlements and relocating the US embassy, seemingly moved by whoever spoke to him last. Some seize on the inconsisstencies as cause for optimism. They are not clutching at straws, but dynamite.
The overall tendency of the administration is disturbing. Symptomatic is his choice of ambassador. David Friedman has financially supported illegal settlements, backed annexation of territory in the West Bank and made wildly offensive remarks about liberal Jews, for which he belatedly expressed regret at a heated confirmation hearing today. Even if Mr Trump can at times be…