Trump, Netanyahu Cast Iran as Common Enemy

from The Wall Street Journal,

President hopes to restart stalled negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Iranian aggression has united Israelis and Arabs and brought Middle East peace closer than ever, but Mr. Trump’s warm reception in the region masks risks that have derailed his predecessors’ bids for decades. “I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all, but I have a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually,” Mr. Trump said Monday as he met with Mr. Netanyahu. “I hope.” Mr. Netanyahu cited Iran as a unifying force in the region, saying “common dangers are turning former enemies into partners” and adding that Mr. Trump’s meeting with Arab leaders a day earlier in Saudi Arabia “could help create the conditions for a realistic peace.”

“For the first time in my lifetime, I see a real hope for change,” Mr. Netanyahu said. Israelis and Palestinians remain fundamentally divided on what a peace deal might entail, and both Mr. Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas must contend with pressure from their constituents that could block potential compromises. Mr. Trump plans to travel to the West Bank on Tuesday to meet Mr. Abbas. Mr. Trump’s trip so far has been peppered with symbolism. He was the first president to fly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv, between two countries that have no diplomatic relations. The Saudi government gave him a red-carpet reception, and the U.S. and Saudi Arabia signed $109 billion in new arms deals.

As Mr. Trump flew to Tel Aviv, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tempered expectations, telling reporters traveling with the president that a three-way meeting between the U.S., Israeli and Palestinian leaders is “for a future discussion.” “I think there will certainly be opportunities for that in the future,” Mr. Tillerson said.

Mr. Netanyahu faces limits on his ability to negotiate the establishment of a Palestinian state, in that he has political coalition partners unwilling to consider such an outcome. Palestinians, on the other hand, are unwilling to accept anything less than a Palestinian state. Nor are other nations in the Arab world, despite positive overtures to Israel amid shared concerns about Iran. “Iran isn’t enough to bring people together over the table,” David Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute and veteran peace negotiator. “The more people talk about the Gulf standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel, people will ask whether there can be more overt ties.” Mr. Makovsky said the best the U.S. president could currently hope for would be to get Messrs. Abbas and Netanyahu to agree to direct talks without either side demanding something first.

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