Donald Trump seemed to make it up as he went along when he met the prime minister of Israel, berating fake news, dissing Hillary Clinton and apparently changing longstanding American policy on the biggest issue in the Middle East.
The most unpredictable president in living memory welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House, and Trump hinted he would ditch America’s commitment to creating a Palestinian state to exist alongside the Israeli one - the two-state solution - which has been US policy for decades.
“So I’m looking two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he told assembled journalists.
That was just one of the WTF moments that happened during the 26-minute joint press conference.
1. Trump blames ‘fake’ media for forcing his National Security Advisor to resign
Mike Flynn resigned as National Security Advisor after The Washington Post exposed his contact with Russian intelligence officials before the inauguration.
Without disputing the story’s accuracy, Trump called it “fake”. “He’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media. As I call it the fake media in many cases. I think it was a sad thing he was treated so badly.”
He then lamented how intelligence about Flynn leaked to the press was a “criminal act” designed to “cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton”.
2. Israel ‘should hold back a little’ on building settlements in Palestinian territory
Israel builds settlements on the West Bank and it is one of the most charged issues in the region. Turning to Netanyahu and raising the pitch of his voice as if he was asking if he wanted a cup of tea, Trump said: “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”
3. Palestinians need to stop ‘tremendous’ hate
Once again demonstrating his sensitive approach to making big statements, Trump said Palestinians had to “get rid of some of that hate they are taught from a very young age”.
“The Israelis are going to have to show some flexibility, which is hard, hard to do. They are going to have to show they really want to make a deal,” Trump said.
“I think the Palestinians have to get rid of some of that hate that they are taught from a very young age. Tremendous hate. I’ve seen what they are taught. It starts in the school room.”
4. Unbelievably softball questions from reporters
Questions came from handpicked Christian and conservative reporters, namely Townhall and the Christian Broadcasting Network. It follows a pattern of Trump selecting questions from media on the Right.
Trump received questions about the Iran nuclear deal and the path to peace in the Middle East, but without any bite - as angry members of the White House press corp attested.
CNN’s Jim Acosta attempted to question Trump about Russia at the end of the press conference, but was ignored.
5. Netanyahu says Jared Kushner ‘was never small’
Netanyahu described Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and an adviser to the President, as “never small, he was always big.” It was a strange moment.
”Can I reveal, Jared, how long I’ve known you? Well, he was never small, he was always big, he was always tall. I’ve known the President, and I’ve known his family for a long time. And there is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump.”
The 36-year-old former real estate developer, who has no foreign policy experience, will be central to the US attempts to broker a Middle East peace deal. The long-standing connection stems from Netanyahu being close to his father, the billionaire developer Charles Kushner, since he was a child.
6. Trump dismisses fuelling anti-Semitism by pointing to Jewish friends and family
The President was questioned on the reported sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents, and whether his “playing with xenophobia and racist tones” fed in to that.
Trump began with a peroration on his election victory, then signalled he could unite a “divided nation” because of his connection to Jews: “So many friends. A daughter, who is here now, a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren.”
He ended: “You’re going to see a lot of love.”
This, remember, is the man stoking tensions via a travel ban targeting Muslim countries and a Mexican border wall.
7. And uses the same tough question to boast about victory
Even more remarkable, his response to the question about whether he was stoking anti-Semitism began with a boast about winning the election.
“I just want to say we are very honoured by the victory we had,” was how began Trump his answer, apropos of nothing. “306 Electoral College votes. We were not supposed to crack 220.” He looked to Netanyahu: “You know that, right?”
“It’s like he’s on drugs,” one journalist said.