Trump: I’d like to see Israel ‘hold back on settlements for a little bit’

Trump wants Israel to “hold back a little bit” with construction in Judea and Samaria. 

US President Donald Trump said he would like to see Israel “hold back on settlements for a little bit,” referring to construction in Judea and Samaria.

Trump made the remark while taking questions during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Wednesday.

The president was asked by a reporter about the “settlement issue” – Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria – which the Palestinians claim is an obstacle to peace, while both Israel and the Trump administration maintain it is not.

“As far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out,” Trump replied, somewhat ambiguously.

“I would like to see a deal be made. I think a deal will be made,” he said of the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians.

When asked again about the specifics regarding a halt in Israel’s construction in Judea and Samaria, Trump replied that “the Israelis are going to have to show some flexibility, which is hard.”

“They’re going to have to show the fact that they really want to make a deal. I think our new concept that we’ve been discussing, actually for awhile, is something that allows them to show more flexibility than they have in the past because you have a lot bigger canvas to play with. And I think they’ll do that,” he stated.

“I think they very much would like to make a deal or I wouldn’t be happy and I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be as optimistic as I am. I can tell you from the standpoint of Bibi [Netanyahu] and from the standpoint of Israel, I really believe they want to make a deal and they’d like to see the big deal,” he added.

Turning to the “flexibility” the Palestinians need to show, Trump said they “have to get rid of some of that hate that they’re taught from a very young age. They’re taught tremendous hate. I’ve seen what they’re taught. And you can talk about flexibility there too, but it starts at a very young age and it starts in the school room.”

He was referring to the institutionalized education provided to Palestinian children in the official school system, the media, in sports and even in summer camps and playgrounds, where they are taught to hate Israelis and Jews.

“They have to acknowledge Israel,” Trump stressed.  “There’s no way a deal can be made if they’re not ready to acknowledge a very, very great and important country. And I think they’re going to be willing to do that also.”

Following his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu held a press conference, where he was asked about Trump’s request to halt construction in Judea and Samaria.

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Since the request was made by an American president who is extremely friendly towards Israel, it would be worth the effort to consider it, Netanyahu said.

However, building will continue in Jerusalem, he stressed, as well as construction that was already announced, including 6,000 housing units in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria in the weeks after Trump had entered office.

Netanyahu Faces Challenges Back Home

Netanyahu said that any other plans for construction will have to be discussed.

The prime minister’s response was challenged back home. Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, a key member of the government coalition, said that clarification is needed regarding Netanyahu’s pledge.

“There is a difference between Obama’s ‘not one more brick’ and Trump’s words, which talked about a certain restraint. We need to understand exactly what is being talked about. There is no reason that the state of Israel cannot build in Har Homa [in Jerusalem], Efrat [in Judea, near Jerusalem] and other places,” Bennett told the Israeli Kol Barama radio station.

“Before Netanyahu went to Washington, we defined together very clear parameters regarding the freedom to build. We need to see where things stand. I don’t want to draw conclusions about that which I don’t yet know. The prime minister will land and we’ll hear exactly what the issues are.”

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Bennett refused to say whether his party would quit the government over this issue.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News