Aides to US president-elect Donald Trump are reportedly warning President Barack Obama not to “even think about” trying to make a new push for progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the final weeks of his administration.
The outgoing president and his team “shouldn’t go seeking new adventures or pushing through policies that clearly don’t match Trump’s positions,” the Politico website reported an unnamed Trump “national security adviser” as insisting.
And that includes “efforts to bring peace to the Israelis and Palestinians — even if those initiatives are symbolic at best,” Politico wrote, noting that Trump “has made it very clear he will support Israel and its preferences.”
The Thursday report, which was headlined “Trump team warns Obama not to make major moves on foreign policy,” quoted Obama administration officials wondering about how much influence they could have on the incoming president and his team. “We are asking ourselves: Are we going to be able to have some influence on the transition team or not? There is so much unknown. Nobody really knows these people,” a State Department official was quoted as saying. “I’m not sure I need to feel defensive about what we are working on, but I think it’s important to explain it, and explain options, and to be willing to explore alternatives.”
Israeli leaders have frequently expressed concern that Obama, who has clashed repeatedly with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Palestinian issue, might support a UN resolution or push an initiative of his own that could discomfit the right-wing Israeli governing coalition.
In an apparent message to Obama at last Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said he expects the “United States will remain true to its commitment for many years that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be resolved through direct negotiations without pre-conditions, and of course not through decisions by the United Nations of other international bodies.”
On the day after Trump’s victory, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro declined to say whether the shock result increased the likelihood of the outgoing administration backing a Palestine-related resolution at the United Nations Security Council. “The president will, as he has been for many months, look for any way he and we as an administration might be able to advance our goal of making progress toward a two-state solution,” Shapiro said. Currently, “some disturbing trends on the ground” are pulling both Israelis and Palestinians in the opposite direction. “And so, any initiative that [Obama] might consider in these final months in office would be based on that motivation.”
On Friday, Trump said he hopes to orchestrate “the ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians that would resolve “the war that never ends.”
The president-elect said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that “as a deal maker, I’d like to do… the deal that can’t be made. And do it for humanity’s sake.”
Trump’s Friday comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict came quick on the heels of a message published in Israel Hayom in which the president-elect hailed the Jewish state as a “beacon of hope to countless people.”
“Israel and America share so many of the same values, such as freedom of speech, freedom of worship and the importance of creating opportunities for all citizens to pursue their dreams,” Trump said in the message published by the Israel Hayom newspaper.
“Israel is the one true democracy and defender of human rights in the Middle East and a beacon of hope to countless people.”
He added that he hoped his administration would play a “significant role in helping the parties to achieve a just, lasting peace,” saying that any deal would have to be directly negotiated between the two sides.
France is currently pushing for an international conference to discuss peace in the Middle East, but Israel says any talks should be bilateral ones between the two sides.
The Palestinians have called for international involvement, accusing Israel of reneging on past agreements.
Netanyahu was among the first leaders Trump spoke to after his election victory.
Israeli right-wingers have hailed Trump’s win as an opportunity to consolidate control over the West Bank.
Meir Turgeman, chairman of the Jerusalem municipality planning committee, told Israel Radio that it provided a green light to revive suspended permits for Israeli construction in East Jerusalem.
He said the municipality intended to authorize thousands of housing units that had been frozen.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, said on Wednesday that the US election result meant the idea of a Palestinian state was over.