WASHINGTON — Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump outlined his views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an interview published Sunday, saying he is under the impression that the overwhelming majority of Israelis really do want to make peace, but that he has doubts the Palestinians feel the same way.
He also stressed that until the Palestinians give up terror and recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a peace agreement will never be reached.
Trump was coming fresh from a controversial appearance at the confab of pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, where he drew surprising cheers, including for open criticism of President Barack Obama’s treatment of Israel, despite being pilloried by other candidates for statements that he will be “neutral” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a lengthy New York Times interview published Saturday, he described his foreign policy as an “America first” approach that will stop the US from being systematically “ripped off.”
The phone interview was the most in-depth discussion so far on foreign policy for the Republican front-runner, who has spent his entire career in business.
During the conversation, he detailed his views on issues ranging from East Asian security to Syria, the Islamic State group and relations with allies such as Saudi Arabia.
Probed on his views of the two sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Trump said that he could see a real desire for peace from the Israelis — but not so from the Palestinians.
“I’ll tell you one thing, people that I know from Israel, many people, many, many people, and almost everybody would love to see a deal on the side of Israel,” he said. “Now with that being said, most people don’t think a deal can be made. They really want to make a deal, they want to make a good deal, they want to make a fair deal, but they do want to make a deal. Almost everybody, and I’m talking to people off the record, and off the record, they really would like to see a deal. I’m not so sure that the other side [the Palestinians] can mentally, you know, get their heads around the deal, because the hatred is so incredible.”
Asked if he supports the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Trump explained that while he does support the idea, he would rather see the two parties reach their own agreement than offer his own answer to the problem.
“I specifically don’t want to address the issue because I would love to see if a deal could be made,” he said, in his signature halting style. “I would love to see if a real deal could be made. Not a deal that you know, lasts for three months, and then everybody starts shooting again. And a big part of that deal, you know, has to be to end terror, we have to end terror.”
“Basically I support a two-state solution on Israel. But the Palestinian Authority has to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Have to do that. And they have to stop the terror, stop the attacks, stop the teaching of hatred, you know?”
Palestinian children are, he said, “aspiring to grow up to be terrorists.
“They are taught to grow up to be terrorists. And they have to stop. They have to stop the terror. They have to stop the stabbings and all of the things going on. And they have to recognize that Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. And they have to be able to do that. And if they can’t, you’re never going to make a deal. One state, two states, it doesn’t matter: you’re never going to be able to make a deal. Because Israel would have to have that.
“Now whether or not the Palestinians can live with that? You would think they could. It shouldn’t be hard except that the ingrained hatred is tremendous.”
Turing to his position on other global issues, Trump said he was not an isolationist but described the United States as a poor debtor nation that disproportionately funds international alliances such as NATO and the United Nations.
Similarly lopsided relationships exist with allies such as Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, he said.
“We have been disrespected, mocked and ripped off for many many years by people that were smarter, shrewder, tougher,” he told the Times.
“So America first, yes, we will not be ripped off anymore. We’re going to be friendly with everybody, but we’re not going to be taken advantage of by anybody,” he said.
Asked if Japan should be allowed to have nuclear weapons to protect itself from North Korea, Trump suggested that would be an acceptable situation.
“Would I rather have North Korea have them with Japan sitting there having them also? You may very well be better off if that’s the case,” he said.
Trump also said he would withdraw US troops from Japan and South Korea unless the two Asian countries significantly increased their contributions to Washington for the military presence.
“We cannot afford to be losing vast amounts of billions of dollars on all of this,” he said.
He then slammed US President Barack Obama’s administration for seeking a political exit for Syrian President Bashar Assad while simultaneously fighting the Islamic State group as “madness and idiocy.”
“I’m not saying Assad is a good man, ’cause he’s not, but our far greater problem is not Assad, it’s ISIS,” he said.
The real estate developer said he would instead target the oil that provides a significant portion of the extremist group’s funding, cracking down on underground banking channels to cut off the flow of money.
Trump, who has repeatedly called for Middle Eastern allies to contribute boots on the ground in the fight against IS, said he would “probably” stop buying oil from countries like Saudi Arabia unless they did so or reimbursed the United States for its role in the fight.
Trump added that he got most of his foreign policy information by reading various newspapers including The New York Times, which released a full transcript of the interview.