Donald Trump has told Israel it will have to make “significant compromises” if it wants to secure a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Two months after he angered Palestinians and their supporters by unilaterally declaring the US was recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the US President said both sides would need to work hard to create a deal that might stick.
In an interview with the conservative Hebrew-language newspaper Hayom, which is due to be published in full over the weekend, Mr Trump said: “I wanted to make clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Regarding specific borders, I will grant my support to what the two sides agree between themselves.”
He added: “I think that both sides will have to make significant compromises in order for achieving a peace deal to be possible.”
Mr Trump delighted many Israelis and Christian conservatives in the US, when he broke with more than 50 years of international diplomatic consensus to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and say he would be relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv.
The international community had for decades stuck to the position that the final status of the city was central to part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Mr Trump said he was only recognising a reality that already existed on the ground as Israeli government offices and departments were already based there. He claimed that by making the announcement, he had taken the issue off the table and made it easier to find a path to peace.
Mr Trump’s comments came across the backdrop of fresh strains between the Palestinians and the US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, following the killing by a Palestinian of a Jewish settler.
Reuters said that after the settler was stabbed to death on Monday, Mr Friedman tweeted that he had previously donated an ambulance to the slain man’s community and that he was praying for the next-of-kin, adding: “Palestinian ‘leaders’ have praised the killer.”
The envoy’s tweet drew a rebuke from the Palestinian administration.
“The American ambassador’s statements make us wonder about his relationship with the occupation,” said Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas. “Is he representing America or Israel?”
Mr Abu Rdainah added: “Friedman’s recommendations and advice, which do not aim to achieve a just peace on the basis of international legitimacy, are what led to this crisis in American-Palestinian relations.” Mr Friedman, among the top Trump advisers who promoted the Jerusalem move, is a former contributor to settler causes.
The liberal Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, published a column criticising Mr Friedman’s stance and dubbing the settlement he had supported as “a mountain of curses” – a play on its Hebrew name, Har Bracha, which means Mount Blessing.
The envoy fired back at the envoy in another tweet on Friday. “Four young children are sitting shiva (Jewish mourning rite) for their murdered father …. Have they (Haaretz) no decency,” he said.
Haaretz’s publisher, Amos Shocken, responded with comments that echoed Palestinian complaints.
He said: “As long as the policy of Israel that your Government and yourself support is obstructing (the) peace process – there will be more Shivas.”