U.S. President Donald Trump called on “Israel to be reasonable with respect to peace,” saying in his administration’s stance on new settlements on Palestinian land may not be helpful.
Mr. Trump stated this on Friday in an interview with an Israeli newspaper.
Mr. Trump’s comments to Israel Today come as he tones down his pro-Israel bravado ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to the White House on Feb. 15.
“I want Israel to be reasonable with respect to peace. I want to see peace happen,” Mr. Trump said in the interview published on Friday.
“I would like to see a level of reasonableness of both parties, and I think we have a good chance of doing that.’’
During his 2016 election campaign, Mr. Trump signalled his presidency would be a boon for Israel and tough on Palestinians.
He talked of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, naming an ambassador who backs Israel’s settlement programme and exerting no pressure on Israel for peace talks.
Now, Mr. Trump is adopting a more measured stance.
Even though the White House did not join the widespread criticism this week of a new Israeli law which retroactively legalises about 4,000 existing settler homes, its pro-Israel approach shows signs of being more nuanced.
“They [settlements] don’t help the process. I can say that,” Mr. Trump told the Israeli daily owned by U.S. casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a Netanyahu supporter and Republican Party donor.
“Every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left. I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace,” he said.
The president said his administration was “looking at some other options” regarding the settlements.
He also said he was still studying the case for relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.