President Donald Trump appeared to adopt a harder U.S. line towards Israel in an interview with an Israeli paper just days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House.
Trump criticized Israeli settlement building in disputed territory and said he was reconsidering moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Trump repeatedly pledged to move the embassy to Jerusalem throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, and lambasted former President Barack Obama’s decision to allow a United Nations resolution condemning Israel to pass without veto.
Israeli settlements “don’t help the process,” Trump said, adding that he did not think “going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.” Regarding the embassy move Trump said it was “not an easy decision” and that the U.S. will “see what happens.”
The Trump administration previously issued a Feb. 3 statement lightly condemning Israeli decisions to build more settlements in east Jerusalem saying, “while we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”
Trump’s statement’s also appear to fly in the face of the positions of his pick for U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. Friedman was a columnist for a pro-settler website in Israel. After news of his announcement broke, a leading pro-settler activist told Haaretz, “David Friedman is a friend and a true partner of Israel and the settlements.”
Friedman’s acceptance statement indicated he too would support the Jerusalem initiative saying, “I intend to work tirelessly to strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
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