Presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump said Monday that he supports further Israeli construction of settlements, coming out against the long-standing US demand that Israel halt all building in the West Bank, a demand that both President Barack Obama and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton have previously supported.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Trump called the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks “the toughest negotiation,” stating that “Israel was never properly treated” by the US. “I would love to see if peace could be negotiated,” he added.
If elected, Trump’s seemingly broad support of settlement development would constitute a dramatic shift in US foreign policy, as both Democratic and Republican US presidents have stated in the past that the settlements are illegal and no further building in them should be allowed. In line with this, in 2009, President Obama had requested that Israel halt all expansion work in the settlements as a precondition to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Trump also expressed his support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling him “a very good guy” and saying that the two would most likely “have a very good relationship.”
He also mentioned how perplexed he is when speaking to Jewish friends who support Obama. “I think President Obama has been extremely bad to Israel,” he said, calling the US-brokered nuclear deal with Iran “a disaster for Israel.”
Referring to the many missiles that have been launched by the Palestinians into Israel, Trump wondered aloud, “who would put up with that? Who would stand for it?”
Never one to shy away from contradicting himself, Trump’s latest interview goes against statements he had made only a few weeks prior, in which he claimed that as president, he would look to remain “neutral” when approaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite this, Trump has consistently expressed his love for Israel and his support of Netanyahu.
One such occasion was his speech at the AIPAC convention in Washington, where he promised to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which he referred to as “the eternal capital of the Jewish People.” He went on to criticize the anti-Israel sentiments found in the Palestinian media and education system.
Nevertheless, not all of Trump’s AIPAC speech was unwavering in its backing of Israel. When asked about the security aid that Israel receives from the US, he stated that he believes that just as other countries pay for it, “I think Israel would do that also.”