Trump questions Israel’s interest in making peace

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Palestinian women shout slogans during a protest against US aid cuts, outside the United Nations’ offices at the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. On January 16, Washington held back $65 million that had been earmarked for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), but the State Department denied the freeze was to punish the Palestinian leadership, which has cut ties with President Donald Trump’s administration following his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year, with a spokeswoman saying it was linked to necessary “reform” of UNRWA. — AFP

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump questioned Israel’s interest in making peace with the Palestinians in an interview published Sunday, spotlighting its West Bank settlements as a complicating factor.

In the interview in the Israel Hayom daily, Trump also cast doubt on the Palestinians’ desire to strike a deal. But his comments about Israel mark rare criticism from a president who has publicly sparred with the Palestinians while forging warm ties with Israel ahead of the expected presentation of a US peace outline.

“Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace, they are not looking to make peace. And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace. So we are just going to have to see what happens,” Trump was quoted as saying. He did not disclose details about the anticipated peace plan.

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

In the interview, Trump criticized Israel’s West Bank settlements, which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal obstacles to peace. The Trump White House has been less publicly critical of Israel’s settlement building than previous administrations.

“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. — AP


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