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Trump questions Israel's interest in peace with Palestinians

China Daily | Updated: 2018-02-13 16:33

JERUSALEM - US President Donald Trump said in an interview published on Sunday that he was "not necessarily sure" Israel was seeking to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Trump has previously denounced the Palestinians for what he sees as their unwillingness to negotiate, but he has largely refrained from criticizing Israel.

Speaking to the daily Israel Hayom, Trump noted that while United States-Israel relations were "great", peace with the Palestinians would make them "a lot better".

"Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace. They are not looking to make peace," Trump said in the interview with the newspaper.

"And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace. So we are just going to have to see what happens."

Israel Hayom is owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a Trump backer and a supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump also expressed concerns about Israeli settlement building, although his administration has been far less critical of settlements than his predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump's ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has in the past been a supporter of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

"The settlements are something that very much complicates and always have complicated making peace, so I think Israel has to be very careful with the settlements," he said.

Trump has said he intends to bring the Israelis and Palestinians to the "ultimate deal" that would resolve the decades-long conflict, but in the interview he questioned whether negotiations were even possible for now.

"I don't know frankly if we are going to even have talks. We will see what happens, but I think it is very foolish for the Palestinians and I also think it would be very foolish for the Israelis if they don't make a deal," Trump said.

"It's our only opportunity and it will never happen after this."

Relations between the US and the Palestinians have spiraled since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December. Since then he has cut US funding to a United Nations agency that assists Palestinian refugees and threatened to withhold aid money to the Palestinians unless they resume negotiations with Israel.

The Palestinians, who claim Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, saw Trump's announcement as unfairly taking sides with the Israelis.

They say the US is not an honest broker and have preemptively rejected any peace proposal presented by the Trump administration.

Trump is also withholding tens of millions of dollars from UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Afp - Ap

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