Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would support an Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank and would likely back a complete annexation if Israel deems it necessary, a top aide to the candidate told Haaretz in an interview published Thursday.
David Friedman, who serves as Trump’s adviser on Israel along with Jason Dov Greenblatt, told the paper that, if elected, his boss wouldn’t necessarily adopt the positions of previous US presidents in supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
“Not without the approval of the Israelis,” Friedman said. “This is an issue that Israel has to deal with on its own because it will have to deal with the consequences… The Israelis have to make the decision on whether or not to give up land to create a Palestinian state. If the Israelis don’t want to do it, so he doesn’t think they should do it.”
Trump, he stressed, did not see a Palestinian state as “an American imperative” in any way. “Trump’s position is that we have to deal with reality and not hopes and wishes.”
He also called into doubt Palestinian rights to the land, saying, “We don’t accept the idea it is only about land. Nobody really knows how many Palestinians actually live there.”
Asked whether Trump would back an Israeli move to annex parts of the West Bank, Friedman said, “I think there are parts of the West Bank that will stay part of Israel in any peace deal. I am sure he wouldn’t have any problem with that at all.”
As for taking in the entirety of the territory, Friedman noted that “that’s a legal issue” but then added that “I don’t think he will have a problem with that but he would expect Israel to continue seeking peace.”
Trump has said in the past that he would be “neutral” and not choose sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But he’s also said Israel should keep building settlements in the West Bank and has claimed that US President Barack Obama “has been extremely bad to Israel.”
On Wednesday, Friedman said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should wait for the Republican candidate to win the White House before signing a military aid deal with Washington, because Trump would offer a better deal than the Obama administration.
The adviser told Channel 2 said that a Trump administration would maintain Israel’s military advantage over its neighbors. He said Trump would not reduce defense aid to Israel but “in all likelihood will increase it significantly.”
Friedman’s suggestion that Trump would increase aid to Israel apparently ran contrary to the GOP candidate’s call to make Israel pay back foreign aid. In March, Trump said he believed Israel should pay for defense aid it receives from the US.
The comments came as Jerusalem and Washington grapple over a new 10-year defense aid pact to replace the current one, which expires in 2018 and grants the Jewish state more than $3 billion per year.
In May, Trump said he believes he enjoys “massive” support from Israelis as he announced he would visit Israel before the presidential election, in an interview published by the Israel Hayom daily.
Trump said during the May 11 interview that he would be visiting Israel “soon,” without specifying exactly when, responding to earlier reports that he would travel to Israel, Russia and Germany after securing the nomination at the Republican National Convention.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.