Trump's Middle East policy in chaos as UN ambassador says US 'absolutely' supports two-state solution
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16 February 2017 • 6:36pm
Confusion over Donald Trump’s Middle East policy deepened on Thursday as the US ambassador to the UN appeared to contradict him by saying America “absolutely” supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr Trump overturned decades of US policy on Wednesday when he said he was open to the idea of giving up on a Palestinian state and supporting a one-state solution if both Israelis and Palestinians agreed on it. But less than 24 hours later, Mr Trump’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley said the two-state solution “is what we support”. "We absolutely support the two-state solution but we are thinking out of the box as well,” Mrs Haley said.
Trump open to one or two state solution in Middle East
The mixed messages came as Mr Trump's firebrand choice for US ambassador to Israel tried to soften some of his positions, apologising for comparing liberal Jews to Nazi collaborators and walking back his own fervent opposition to the idea of two states. David Friedman, who was Mr Trump’s personal bankruptcy lawyer, was grilled by Senate Democrats over his support for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and his claim that Barack Obama was guilty of anti-Semitic behaviour. The 59-year-old was reminded that he had once said liberal Jewish activists were “far worse than kapos – Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps” and accused a Jewish Democrat senator of “the worst appeasement of terrorism since Munich”. Mr Friedman, who practices Orthodox Judaism, struck a conciliatory tone before the Senate foreign relations committee, saying he “regrets” his inflammatory comments. "If confirmed, you should expect my comments to be respectful and measured,” he said.
Credit:Bradley C Bower
The lawyer had previously described the two-state solution as a “damaging anachronism” and “a scam” and had called for Israel to continue building settlements even though much of the world considers settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace. But on Thursday he significantly moderated his tone, saying that the two-state solution is “the best possibility” for peace and promising that he would not advocate for further Israeli annexation in the occupied West Bank. The US supported the idea of two states during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations but Mr Trump scrambled that policy on Wednesday, saying that he was open to either a one-state or two-state solution as long as Israelis and Palestinians agreed. Mr Friedman’s testimony was interrupted by several protesters and five former US ambassadors to Israel, who served under both Democrats and Republican, released a letter calling “unqualified” for the job. Around 600 rabbis also released a letter opposing Mr Friedman and progressive Jewish groups in the US have called for the Senate to reject him. But despite the opposition, Mr Friedman is expected to get the 11 votes he needs from the foreign relations committee and then be confirmed by the Republican majority in the Senate.