Right now is the “only opportunity” for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a peace agreement, according to President Donald Trump ― but he expressed doubt over whether Israel is up to the task.
“I don’t know frankly if we are going to even have talks, we will see what happens,” he said in an interview published Sunday with the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom. “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.”
One of the primary issues is the continued Israeli push to build settlements on Palestinian territory. In a possible jab at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose time in office has been defined in large part by settlement expansion, Trump acknowledged that settlements are making the peace process more difficult.
“Israel has to be careful with settlements,” Trump warned. “The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace.”
He appeared to contradict himself, expressing doubt about the likelihood of a peace process but also proclaiming that the opportunity has never been more ripe. U.S.-Israeli relations are at an all-time high, he said, and the chance to make peace “will never happen after this.”
Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December, announcing an imminent embassy move from Tel Aviv. Protests raged for days following the announcement, although Trump says he views the decision as one of the highlights of his first year in office.
“The capital, having Jerusalem be your great capital was a very important thing to a lot of people,” Trump said. “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.”
Netanyahu praised the move, while a furious Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would refuse to let the U.S. serve as a peace mediator going forward.
Trump followed up by withdrawing $65 million in aid from the U.N. agency that serves Palestinian refugees.