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In town pool report #4 // briefing on Netanyahu visit
John Fritze • Baltimore Sun
February 14, 2017: 08:04 PM

The pool took part in a roughly 15-minute background briefing with senior White House officials to discus Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to the White House tomorrow. Contents of the briefing were embargoed until 8 p.m.

There is some intel on schedule and logistics at the end, but first would like to draw attention to some of the back-and-forth on the two-state solution.

Does peace equal a two state solution?

"Maybe, maybe not. It's something the two sides have to agree to. It's not for us to impose that vision. But I think we'll find out more about that tomorrow."

The official said the term "two-state solution" has not been particularly well defined.

"If I ask five people what a two-state solution is, I get eight different answers."

Will they not use that term tomorrow, then?

"We're looking at the two sides to come together to make peace together and we'll be there to help them," the official said.

So is peace now the goal, and not necessarily a two-state solution?

"A two-state solution that doesn't bring peace is not our goal that anybody wants to achieve," the official said. "Peace is the goal, whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution if that's what the parties want or something else, if that's what the parties want, we're going to help them."

"We're not going to dictate what the terms of peace will be," the official said.

"President Trump has very much indicated that he wants to achieve peace," the official said.

The official said a possible meeting between the Israelis and Palestinians would be part of the discussions tomorrow. "He's hopeful to bring the two sides together to discuss peace," the official said of the president. How quickly would he like to get a Middle East peace process going? "I do think it's a very high priority for the administration," the official said, who would not be pinned down on timeline.

Asked about deliverables for tomorrow, the senior White House official said to look for "common visions." The official said settlements, an embassy move, Iran would also be up for discussion but when asked about the possibility of announcements on those issues, the official said, "I don't want to get ahead of the meeting, but certainly those topics will be discussed."

Iran, the official said, wil be a critical piece of the discussion.

Also to be discussed, the recent UN resolution on settlements: "The posture that the U.S. takes at the U.N. under this administration would be to veto anything that is biased against Israel. So we view the vote that took place as biased against Israel...We'll have to see what the potential impact is to Israel and so I'm not sure what can be done yet."

On logistics/schedule:

The senior official said the administration is "super excited" about the visit, which the official said would "usher in a new relationship between Israel and the United States -- something that Israel has not seen in well over eight years, a relationship that will show there is no daylight, that we are fully cognizant of the situation that Israel finds itself in."

The meeting will start with the president and first lady greeting the PM and Mrs. Netanyahu. They will sign the guest book. After that, they will head to the East Room for a brief press conference (scheduled for noon). After the press conference, the president and the PM will meet together in the Oval Office. After that meeting, there will be a working lunch.

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