President Trump touted the prospects for a “great peace deal” in the Middle East while meeting Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as both leaders sought to reaffirm their countries’ alliance and turn the page on years of tensions between the Israeli leader and Trump’s predecessor.
The U.S. president, starting early on the negotiations, also used a joint press conference to publicly prod Netanyahu on the sensitive issue of Israeli settlement-building.
“I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit,” Trump said, standing beside Netanyahu at the White House.
Minutes later, Netanyahu gently pushed back, saying he doesn’t consider settlements at the “core of the conflict” and they would discuss the matter so as not to keep “bumping into each other.”
It was Trump’s first taste of the tricky geopolitics ahead. In seeking a Middle East peace accord, Trump is going down a road virtually every modern president has traveled, only to be snarled in the end by the complicated regional political and security interests that for decades have kept such a deal out of reach.
But Trump, who throughout his career has burnished the image of a master negotiator, sounded an optimistic note, citing his own personal relationship with his Israeli counterpart.