News / World

The Latest: Pro-settler leader hails 'new era' in Mideast

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — The Latest on U.S. President Donald Trump's planned meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (all times local):

1:20 p.m.

The head of Israel's pro-settler Jewish Home Party has welcomed what he is calling a "new era" following the White House press conference with President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a tweet, Naftali Bennett said the "Palestinian flag was removed from the staff and replaced with an Israeli flag."

Bennett, a powerful coalition partner in Netanyahu's government, is a leading opponent of Palestinian statehood and believes Israel should instead annex occupied lands.

At the press conference, both Trump and Netanyahu were evasive about endorsing a two-state solution with the Palestinians, the international community's preferred solution for nearly two decades.

In his tweet, Bennett said the prime minister "displayed leadership and daring and fortified Israel's security."

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12:55 p.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vouching for President Donald Trump as the two leaders appear together at a joint press conference.

Netanyahu says there is "no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump."

The prime minister was addressing a question from Israeli media about fears the administration "is playing with xenophobia and maybe racist tones."

Netanyahu says that he's known Trump, members of Trump's team and his family for many years. That includes Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, whom Netanyahu has known since Kushner was young.

Netanyahu says he thinks any insinuation otherwise should be put "to rest."

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12:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says in a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he will do "everything within our power to stop long-simmering racism."

Trump was asked by an Israeli reporter about a rise in anti-Semitic incidents and whether his campaign encouraged xenophobia. Trump notes that he won 306 electoral votes and fostered "tremendous enthusiasm" during his campaign.

The new president says the nation is "very divided" and adds he's hopeful to be able to "do something about that."

Trump notes that his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and their three children are Jewish. He says "you're going to see a lot of love" in the United States.

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12:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is asking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "hold back" on settlements for a bit.

In a joint press conference with Netanyahu at the White House Wednesday, Trump responded to a question about his position on the expansion of Israeli settlements, asking Netanyahu to "hold back on settlements for a little bit."

He says that a "two state looked like it will be the easier of the two," but says that if Israel and the Palestinians find an alternative that they like better, he'll support them.

Trump also says that he'd like to see the U.S. Embassy in Israel moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but noted that "we're looking at it with great care."

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12:20 p.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is urging President Donald Trump to "let us seize this moment" to seek new avenues of peace in the Middle East.

Netanyahu also says he believes reversing the "rising tide of radical Islam" is also possible with Trump leading the United States.

The Israeli leader is at the White House to meet with Trump.

In his opening statement at a joint news conference, Trump says Israel has no better ally than the United States and the United States has no better ally than Israel.

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12:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump is opening his joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister with a vow to encourage a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

But the U.S. president says the two parties themselves "must directly negotiate such an agreement."

Netanyahu adds, "both sides."

Trump reaffirmed the United States' "unbreakable bond" between the two countries. He called Israel a symbol of resilience. He says Israel faces enormous security challenges and is calling the Iran nuclear deal negotiated under former President Barack Obama "one of the worst deals I've ever seen."

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12:10 p.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (neh-ten-YAH'-hoo) has arrived at the White House for a meeting with President Donald Trump.

Trump and his wife, Melania, greeted Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, at the south entrance to the White House.

The leaders shook hands and the prime minister kissed Mrs. Trump on the cheek. Trump and Netanyahu embraced as they entered the White House.

The leaders were heading straight into a news conference with journalists from U.S. and Israeli media.

Afterward, they were to meet in the Oval Office before continuing their talks over lunch.

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10 a.m.

U.N. chief António Guterres says there is no "plan B" for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after the White House suggested a two-state solution was one of many options for making peace.

Speaking to reporters in Cairo, Guterres said the international community must do everything it can to bring about a two-state solution.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, standing next to Guterres, did not comment on the issue.

The two-state solution has wide international backing and has been a cornerstone of American diplomacy in the Middle East for more than two decades.

A senior White House official said Tuesday that Trump hopes to bring the two sides together and facilitate a peace agreement, but that peace — and not necessarily a Palestinian state alongside Israel — was the priority. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to preview the meeting.

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4 a.m.

A Palestinian official says the goal of establishing a state of Palestine alongside Israel enjoys broad international support, expressing surprise at a Trump administration suggestion that a peace deal may not come in the form of a two-state solution.

Husam Zomlot, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, says the "two-state solution is not something we just came up with."

Zomlot spoke ahead of a White House meeting on Wednesday between President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A White House official has said that it's up to Israelis and Palestinians to decide what peace will entail, and that peace, not a two-state solution, is the goal.

Zomlot says it's not clear if the comments signal a shift from long-standing U.S. policy of supporting a two-state deal.

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3:30 a.m.

The White House says rebooting the Mideast peace process is a very high priority for the Trump administration, although peace may not come in the form of a two-state solution.

A senior White House official says President Donald Trump is eager to begin facilitating a peace deal and hoping to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together sometime soon.

Trump is meeting Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The official says that peace is the goal, regardless of whether it comes in the form of a two-state solution. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to preview the meeting.

Other topics of discussion expected to come up Wednesday include expanded Israeli settlements, Iran and a potential move of the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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