Republican frontrunner Donald Trump was asked during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday evening whether he could make peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
He said that a deal was unlikely, given that Palestinians have been indoctrinated to hate Jews, but that he would be “proud” to make a peace agreement that could last, and that he would be “neutral” as to the question of whose fault the conflict is. “I don’t think it helps” to cast blame, he said.
The full text of his remarks follows, as provided by MSNBC:
QUESTION: Mr. Trump, multiple past presidents have attempted to establish a peace agreement between both sides of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. And the one common theme is that they’ve all been unsuccessful. What specific steps would you take to establish an agreement between both sides?
TRUMP: OK, I think it’s probably the toughest agreement of any kind to make. It has been going on for many years. Many friends of mine have been involved. They’re very, very good businessmen, good negotiators. A lot of people say an agreement can’t be made, which is OK. I mean, sometimes agreements can’t be made, not good. But, you know, you have both sides, really, but you have one side in particular growing up and learning that these are the worst people, these people are the worst people, et cetera, et cetera.
It is a very, very tough agreement to make. I was with a very prominent Israeli the other day, says it’s impossible because the other side has been trained from the time they’re children to hate Jewish people. But I will give it one hell of a shot; that I can tell you. But of all agreements — I would say if you can do that deal, you can do any deal. But that’s probably the toughest deal in the world right now to make, and it’s possible, it’s not makeable (ph), because — don’t forget, it has to last. You know, it’s wonderful to make it and it doesn’t work. But it has to last. To make lasting peace there, probably the toughest deal of all, but I’m going to give it a shot.
SCARBOROUGH: Whose fault do you think it is (inaudible)
TRUMP: You know, I don’t want to get into it.
SCARBOROUGH: You think Israelis or the Palestinians?
TRUMP: I don’t want to get into it for a different reason, Joe, because if I do win, you know, there has to be a certain amount of surprise, unpredictability. Our country has no unpredictability. If I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying to you and the other side, now say, “We don’t want Trump involved, we don’t want” — let me be sort of a neutral guy, let’s see what — I’m going to give it a shot. It would be so great; I would be so proud if I could do that.
I don’t know if it’s doable. I have friends of mine that are tremendous businesspeople, that are really great negotiators, they say it’s not doable. You understand, a lot of people have gone down in flames trying to make that deal. So I don’t want to say whose fault is it; I don’t think it helps.
Trump drew criticism in December when he told the Republican Jewish Coalition that he was not sure Israel wanted a two-state solution, and declined to commit to moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The next month, Trump said that he would move the embassy to Jerusalem.
One criticism of the Obama administration’s approach to the conflict is that it often favors the Palestinian position to create a sense of neutrality.