President-elect Donald Trump said Tuesday he would “love” to clinch a deal to end the intractable conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, despite the checkered history of US attempts to broker a Middle East peace agreement.
“I would love to be the one who made peace with Israel and the Palestinians, that would be such a great achievement,” Trump said in a meeting with staffers from The New York Times. “Because nobody’s been able to do it,” he said.
Trump added that though “really great people” have told him it is “impossible” to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians, “I disagree, I think you can make peace. I think people are tired now of being shot, killed. At some point, when do they come? I think we can do that. I have reason to believe I can do that.”
A New York Times reporter tweeted that Trump also suggested that his son-in-law Jared Kushner could help broker the deal. US-brokered talks between Israel and the Palestinians, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry, ended in failure two and a half years ago.
Asked whether Kushner “can be part” of the peacemaking effort, Trump said: “Well, I think he’d be very good at it. I mean he knows it so well. He knows the region, knows the people, knows the players.”
Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is from an Orthodox Jewish family. The businessman and investor was a close adviser to Trump during the election campaign.
After Trump’s November 8 win, Kushner reportedly asked for access to the daily White House security briefings given to his father-in-law, a claim the Trump team has denied, along with other charges that clearances were sought for Ivanka and Trump’s two sons.
While Kushner’s role in the upcoming Trump administration remains unclear and Ivanka has said she won’t be a part of the team, the two were present when Trump visited with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on November 17, the president-elect’s first meeting with a foreign leader.
Trump has raised Palestinian ire by proposing that Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel’s capital and that the US embassy should be moved there, an idea contrary to traditional US policy.
In Israel, the right-wing camp celebrated Trump’s victory and some saw it as a green light for Israel to resume or accelerate building in West Bank settlements. Education Minister Naftali Bennett met recently with members of Trump’s transition team and urged that the future Trump administration look at alternatives to the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He discussed with them his own plan to annex some parts of the West Bank while giving Palestinians increased autonomy in others areas of the territory.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said last week that Trump’s aides were urging right-wing Israeli politicians to curb their public jubilation at his election, according to Israeli media. After news broke of Bennett’s meetings, Netanyahu told his ministers to cease contacts with the Trump team.
Trump’s leading candidate for defense chief, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, has said that Israel’s settlement enterprise could turn the country into an apartheid state and that the United States pays a price for its support for Israel.
Shortly after leaving his post running CENTCOM over two years ago, Mattis said the current situation in Israel was “unsustainable” and that settlements were obstructing the possibility of a two-state outcome between Israelis and Palestinians. Mattis specifically warned that if Israel continued to expand its settlement presence, its long-term character as a Jewish and democratic state would be at risk.