Two months after shaking up the Mideast diplomatic process with his declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, US President Donald Trump said the “Palestinians are not looking to make peace,” and he was not so sure about the Israelis either.
“We are going to see what goes on,” Trump said in an interview published Sunday in the Sheldon Adelson-owned Israel Hayom newspaper, when asked when the US will unveil its much anticipated peace plan.
“Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace, they are not looking to make peace. And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace. So we are just going to have to see what happens,” he said.
Asked whether the settlements will be part of the peace plan, Trump replied, “We will be talking about settlements.”
“The settlements,” he told Israel Hayom editor-in-chief Boaz Bismuth, “are something that very much complicate and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements.”
The remarks are consistent with the way Trump talked about settlements in a similar interview with Bismuth last year. “Every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left,” he said in February 2017. “No, I am not somebody who believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.”
Trump clarified a comment he made last month in Davos after meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that his decision on Jerusalem had effectively taken the issue off the table. “By taking Jerusalem off the table, I wanted to make it clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and as for specific boundaries, I would support what both sides agreed to,” he said.
As to whether Israel will be expected to give something in return for the Jerusalem move, as he has hinted several times since the December 6 announcement, Trump replied, “I think both sides will have to make hard compromises to reach a peace agreement.”
Trump characterized his declaration regarding Jerusalem as a “very big point” in the first years of his presidency.
“I think it was a very important point,” he said. “The capital, having Jerusalem be your great capital was a very important thing to a lot of people. I have been thanked and in some cases not thanked, to be 100% honest about it. But it was a very important pledge that I made, and I fulfilled my pledge.”
Trump said he could understand why a number of other presidents who made moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem a campaign pledge, “bailed on their promise,” because “I will tell you, the lobbying against it was tremendous.”
Trump said he was not sure whether there would be peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but said, “I think it is very foolish for the Palestinians, and I also think it would be very foolish for the Israelis, if they don’t make a deal. It’s our only opportunity and it will never happen after this.”