On February 15, 2017, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ended his first official visit in America with new US president, Donald Trump. As happens with all state visits to the US, president Trump closed this official visit with a joint press conference with his guest, Netanyahu.
For me, this press conference was what one expects from such a formal environment: caution, pleasantries, only hints of substance. But world-press reactions to the press conference were harsh. Those reactions suggest that Trump and the press don’t speak the same language. When Trump speaks, the press doesn’t seem to understand a word he says.
I know this experience. When I first made aliyah from the US, my Hebrew was, understandably, an Americanized Hebrew, not an Israeli Hebrew. To many Israelis, my Americanized Hebrew just wasn’t Hebrew. Therefore, when I spoke to an Israeli with my Americanized Hebrew, the reaction I often got was, ‘What? What? I can see your lips moving. But the sounds coming out are nonsense!’ That’s how the press reacts to Trump.
For example, here’s what Trump said about a two state solution: “So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. (Laughter.) I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians -- if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best” (Read full transcript: Trump and Netanyahu's Joint Press Conference” haaretz, February 15, 2017). From other comments Trump made at the press conference, Trump appears to be signalling (1) his goal is peace between Arab and Jew; (2) he wants to work towards that goal; (3) he has no pre-conceptions about what ‘peace’ should look like; and (4) he’ll be happy with whatever makes the two parties involved happy.
Do you have a problem with that? What he’s saying is, he’s more concerned with the end result—peace—than he is with how to get there. He recognizes that ‘two-states’ isn’t the only road to peace. He recognizes that the ‘two-states’ model hasn’t worked.
In fact, given the chronic failure of the ‘two-state’ idea, I’d say his approach is refreshing. It’s also more than reasonable for than American leader.
The press doesn’t think so. It has a huge problem with Trump’s answer.
For example, The Guardian said Trump acts to “dismantle” years of US policy (Julian Borger, Peter Beaumont, “Donald Trump says US not committed to two-state Israel-Palestine solution”, guardian, February 15, 2017). The BBC said Trump has “dropped decades of US policy insisting on a two-state solution” (“Trump relaxes US policy on Middle East two-state solution”, February 15, 2017). CBSnews said Trump “broke” with two decades of US policy” (“In significant shift of U.S. policy, Trump backs off two-state solution for Mideast to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”, February 15, 2017). CNN said Trump “rejected the long-established US framework for Middle East peacemaking” (Nicole Gaouette, Elise Labott, “Trump backs off two-state framework for Israeli-Palestinian deal”, February 16, 2017) [The emphasis here is mine].
Apparently, the press rejects allowing Arab and Jew to decide what kind of peace they can live with. The press seemed shocked by Trump’s words.
To the press, Trump isn’t talking about anything new. But he is, unbelievably, dismantling, rejecting and breaking something of value—past US peace efforts.
The press refuses to see value in Trump’s Middle East thinking. Press reports of the news conference suggest shock that Trump should drop long-standing US policy, as if that policy was the Gospel. Indeed, this ‘two-state’ idea has been called an American ‘article of faith’ (Ishaan Tharoor, “The Trump-Netanyahu road map to nowhere”, washingtonpost, February 16, 2017) which Trump now trashes.
This reaction against Trump suggests an incredibly arrogant worldview, wherein both Arab and Jew are so incapable of reaching peaceful cooperation, they must have peace imposed upon them by outsiders who, of course, know better than either Arab or Jew.
I can’t say such a worldview is itself racist. But it certainly smells of racist preconceptions.
The inference of this arrogant dismissal is that Trump, by not endorsing ‘two states’, is repulsive to the civilized. He’s uncouth. Look at him—such a fool.
Trump is no fool. Have you seen how he reacts to the way the press treats him? He smiles. He laughs to himself. He knows exactly what he’s doing.
He’s having a good time. He drives the press insane.
The press get so red with rage at him, it fails to see that he acts on his own agenda, unseen.
Trump has a plan for the Middle East. The press can’t see it.
Israel must be careful. Netanyahu will have to be skilled when dealing with him.
Forget the press’ arrogant disdain for him. Trump will be a formidable ‘negotiator’.