The Slatest

Trump: “I’m Not Sure Israel Is Looking to Make Peace” With Palestinians

President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a bilateral meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, eastern Switzerland, on January 25, 2018.
President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a bilateral meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, eastern Switzerland, on January 25, 2018.
NICHOLAS KAMM/Getty Images

President Donald Trump sat down with a right-wing Israeli paper and refused to give any kind of timeline for when Washington would unveil a plan for peace in the Middle East. Why? He’s just not sure either side wants to actually go through with it. “We are going to see what goes on,” Trump told Israel Hayom, a free daily newspaper backed by Republican donor Sheldon Adelson. “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.”

Although Trump has previously been critical of Palestinians for what he has characterized as a lack of desire to negotiate with Israel, his statement was notable because he also criticized Israel. When the paper’s editor-in-chief Boaz Bismouth asked him about what other nations could play a role in helping broker a peace deal, Trump said that for now he was “interested in the Palestinians and Israel,” adding that “I don’t know frankly if we are going to even have talks.” Leaving the door open for the unexpected to happen, Trump said that “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.”

The commander in chief did say though that Washington has a strong desire for a peace deal, noting it would improve bilateral relations. “I think they are great,” Trump said when asked for his thoughts about relations between the United States and Israel. “I think Bibi Netanyahu is a terrific person, a terrific leader, I think the relationships are good, but I think they will be a lot better if they ever get to making a peace deal.”

Trump also had some surprisingly tough words—for his administration at least—when asked about whether settlements would be part of a peace plan. “We will be talking about settlements. The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements,” Trump said. Former president Barack Obama’s administration frequently criticized Israeli settlements, a practice that Trump has toned down significantly since moving into the White House.

Trump also took the opportunity to criticize his predecessor as a way to praise himself. “Obama was terrible. He was absolutely terrible for Israel,” Trump said. “I think our relationships are very good. I think they are probably as good as they have ever been.”