Trump praises Israel for ‘great concession’ of dropping annexation for peace

Trump says Israel-UAE peace deal will also help protect Christians in the Middle East.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

President Trump on Thursday said that as a part of the new peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates, Israel’s bid to apply sovereignty to settlements in Judea and Samaria is “off the table.”

“Israel has agreed not to do it. More than off the table, they have agreed not to do it,” Trump said in response to a question from a reporter during a White House press conference. “I think that very important. I think it was a great concession by Israel. I think it was a smart concession.”

Trump and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who was present at the briefing, repeatedly explained that Israel had agreed to “suspend” the push for sovereignty.

“The word ‘suspend’ was chosen carefully by all the parties,” Friedman told reporters. “Suspend, by definition, look it up, means temporary halt. It’s off the table now but it’s not off the table permanently,” the ambassador said.

Trump also made a statement that left the door open for future moves.

“Right now all I can say, it’s off the table, so I can’t talk about some time into the future. That’s a big statement but right now it’s off the table,” Trump reiterated.

The president said he expected to hold an official signing ceremony at the White House in the next three weeks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the UAE’s leader Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Trump also said that while the Israel-UAE peace deal would allow Muslims to visit holy sites in Israel, it was also a big step forward for Christians in the region.

“Christians have been persecuted by some countries in particular in the Middle East. This [peace deal] is a big start, It is going to be a strong start, a very powerful start” for the protection of Christians in the Middle East, Trump said.

“If you look at the way Christians have been treated in some countries, it is beyond disgraceful. If I had information and if I had absolute proof of some of the stories we have heard, which is not easy to get, I would go in and do a number to those countries, like you would not believe,” Trump said.

The president said that Christianity “is a very big part of the overall negotiation. As countries come in, the UAE has agreed very strongly to represent us, I think will, very well, with respect to Christianity, because in the Middle East it is not treated well. It is treated horribly and very unfairly.”