In Surprise Move, Trump Turns to Neutrality to Push Peace Between Israel, Palestine

(ANTIMEDIA) While on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump disappointed many supporters of Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. At the time, the Republican nominee “placed the burden of a peace deal firmly with Israel” alone, Haaretz reported. “A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal – whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things,” Trump said.

Despite the faux pas, Trump continued to profess his commitment to Israel, promising to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and going as far as to claim he would be Israel’s “closest friend” if he won the presidency. But perhaps one of his most talked about comments regarding Israel involved settlements.

Asked during a Daily Mail interview last May whether he thought settlement building should be stopped, Trump answered:

No, I don’t think it is, because I think Israel should have – they really have to keep going. They have to keep moving forward.”

Because of this statement, it was a surprise to many when the Trump White House issued a statement Thursday claiming the Israeli settlement construction was unhelpful to peace.

The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years,” the statement reads, appearing to refer to the many instances in the past 50 years when U.S. presidents have objected to Israel’s settlement expansion.

While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace,” the statement continues, “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

Instead of positioning the administration in favor of more settlements, the White House simply closed the statement by asserting that “[t]he Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions.”

Dubious in nature, the statement seems to suggest that the advancement of settlements might not be positive if the goal is peace; it also suggests that the settlements themselves do not represent an impediment to peace. Nevertheless, the statement also suggests that Trump believes the “ultimate deal” is a peace agreement, making it clear the current administration hopes the Israeli government won’t take steps “that could hurt the prospects of such a deal.”

Despite the statement’s contents, some believe the Trump White House seems to make a weaker case against the advancement of settlements when compared to former administrations.

In response to the comments, groups of Israeli settlers downplayed Trump’s comments, the Associated Press reported. Instead of worrying about Trump’s concerns, they look forward to the U.S. president’s upcoming meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Husam Zomlot, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, praised the statement for going “in the right direction.” Nevertheless, Zomlot said, “we need more than words to protect the two-state solution, otherwise we will find nothing to talk about when President Trump” finally discloses his policies on the conflict between the two nations.

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