Trump's rambling, nonsensical Netanyahu press conference leaves many bewildered

Trump's rambling, nonsensical Netanyahu press conference leaves many bewildered
Blog: Does Donald Trump want an end to illegal Israeli settlements? Does he condemn anti-Semitism? Does he have the faintest idea of what's going on?
5 min read
15 Feb, 2017
'We're gonna make a deal. It'll be a great deal,' said Trump. No, really. [Getty]

Where to begin? Watching that press conference with President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, I had to ask if anyone in our newsroom had spiked my afternoon doughnut with drugs. Full-on drugs. Crazy drugs.

Perhaps needless to say, it was a conference packed full of highlights.

Netanyahu said he'd rather deal with substance than labels.

He said this while standing next to Donald Trump, a man who struggles to express himself in sentences of more than 140 characters. Whose concept of substance is best exemplified in his presidency-by-Twitter.

"I'm looking at two state and and one state, and I like the one that both parties like," Trump told reporters, unfathomably.

Mr President, could you share some more from the unrelenting font of your wisdom? Truly, you have given this matter a great deal of thought. The world is blessed to have a statesman of your calibre on the case.

Or perhaps, you dangerous, orange-faced clown, you haven't got the faintest idea what you're talking about.

A "two-state solution" means a sovereign independent state of Israel living side-by-side with a sovereign independent state of Palestine.

Trump went on to decry Palestinians, saying they "must recognise Israel". They did, in 1988. And again in the Oslo Accords. And again, and again.

And it takes some gall to demand recognition when you refuse to identify your own state's borders.

Tell me, Mr Netanyahu, where does Israel begin and end? What borders would you like the world to recognise? The internationally recognised 1967 Green Line? The route of your "security wall", built exclusively within occupied Palestinian territory? The river Jordan?  

The two-state "solution" was a dream rendered impossible by the continuing expansion and colonisation by Israel into Palestinian territory. The "security wall" is in reality a land-grab, annexing fertile farmland to settlements deemed illegal under international law.

The West Bank has been under Israel's military occupation for very nearly 50 years. The Geneva Convention says it is illegal for an occupying power to transfer its population into an occupied territory - yet that is exactly what has been going on for the past five decades.

As for a "one-state solution" - well, everyone would love that, wouldn't they?

But the trouble is, Mr President, you oafish buffoon, everyone has different ideas of what that means. And this is actual, real, important stuff. You can't just throw your hands up and say 'meh, whatever these guys want - one state, two state, three state, four... I'm good with it. Can we go watch some TV now, please?'

For Palestinians, a one-state solution means the establishment of a bi-national country, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, in which Palestinians and Israelis have equal rights - in voting, in home ownership - in movement around the country, in everything. Holy sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere to be shared; peace and justice for all.

Many Palestinians think such a "solution" would even allow the hundreds of thousands of refugees created during the state of Israel's inception in 1948 - and generations of their descendants - the right to return to the physical homes from which they were forced (either by actual violence or by fear of it), many of which were either bulldozed and built upon or simply handed over to new families.

Mr President, such an outcome is not what is meant by the man standing next to you when he refers to a "one-state solution".

No, to Netanyahu, it means complete Israeli dominance. It means full civic rights and freedoms for all Jewish Israelis, and the entrenchment of a second- or third-class Arab citizenry - denied of rights, denied of water resources, living in the shadow of watchtowers, facing arbitrary restrictions on travel between towns, subject to the whims of an occupying military - land stolen, farms annexed, trapped in isolated Bantustans.

In other words, much the same as now. Bibi's dream of a one-state solution is simply the formalisation of Israeli apartheid.

So which vision does Trump support?

"I'd like to see you pull back on settlements for a little bit,” Trump told Netanyahu.

Pull back for a little bit? Either they're illegal or they're not. Either they're an impediment to peace, or they're not.

But the press conference didn't stop there. It got even more baffling.

Listen to this question about rising anti-Semitism in the US. Bear in mind that Trump's number-two, Stephen Bannon, "said that he doesn't like Jews and that he doesn't like the way they raise their kids to be 'whiny brats' and that he didn't want the girls going to school with Jews" - according to his ex-wife in a sworn statement to a court. 

And then listen to Trump's answer. And then try to tell me you have any earthly idea of what the president's talking about...

Bear in mind most of the assembled "mainstream" media assembled at the White House didn't care about the Bibi-Trump love-in. Most wanted to ask about the latest scandal to hit the White House - the mounting evidence of Russian involvement in Trump's election, and the potential pay-off to Putin of abandoning the sanctions placed on Moscow by the previous administration.

Most reporters, to borrow a phrase, want to know what the president knew, and when.

But instead of calling on any well-known outlets such as the New York Times or Fox News (even Bannon's white-supremacist conspiracy-peddling Breitbart had a seat in the front row), Trump took only two questions - one from the Christian Broadcasting Network and a second from Townhall, a small conservative blog.

Netanyahu went on to say that Jews had always lived in Judea - the Biblical name for the southern West Bank - and that Israel was not a coloniser in the West Bank, despite having forcibly taken the territory during war and building actual colonies of its citizens there.

So where does this leave us? British poet Michael Rosen likens the "peace process" to a pizza party, where one person is eating slices of pizza while attempting to divide up the rest.

As for me, I don't know. Maybe my doughnut was spiked and I imagined this whole thing in some kind of psychedelic trance. One can but hope. On a day like today, I'm going to have another one out of the packet and hope for the best.

James Brownsell is managing editor of The New Arab. Follow him on Twitter: @JamesBrownsell

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