Trump tones down support for Israel ahead of Netanyahu's visit

The US President told an Israeli newspaper that settlements are not good for peace, and that he was still reviewing the idea of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Israel was hoping to garner support from the White House for its controversial move to legalise thousands of illegal Jewish homes built on private Palestinian land.

US President Donald Trump seems to have toned down his support for Israel, saying that settlements on Palestinian land do not help the peace process.

"I want Israel to be reasonable with respect to peace. I want to see peace happen," Trump said in an interview with an Israeli newspaper that was published on Friday.

"I would like to see a level of reasonableness of both parties, and I think we have a good chance of doing that."

Trump's comments to Israel Today come as he goes back on his pro-Israel bravado ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to the White House on February 15.

During his 2016 election campaign, Trump signalled his presidency would be a boon for Israel and tough on Palestinians.

He often used Twitter to express support for Israel such as when the UN Security Council censured Israel in December 2016 over the settlement issue. 

Trump also talked of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, naming an ambassador who backs Israel's settlement programme and exerting no pressure on Israel for peace talks.

Now Trump is adopting a more measured stance. 

He refused to say if the US would move its embassy to Jerusalem, a move that could anger Muslims around the world.

"The embassy is not an easy decision. It has obviously been out there for many, many years, and nobody has wanted to make that decision. I'm thinking about it very seriously, and we will see what happens," Trump said.

Netanyahu has used social media to praise Trump as well. 

Even though the White House did not join the widespread criticism this week of a new Israeli law which retroactively legalises about 4,000 existing settler homes, its pro-Israel approach shows signs of being more nuanced.

"They don't help the process. I can say that," Trump told the Israeli daily.

"Every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left," Trump said. "I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace."

The president said his administration was "looking at some other options" regarding the settlements.

TRTWorld and agencies