President Donald Trump has called himself Israel’s “biggest friend,” but cracks seem to be emerging in his relationship with the middle eastern country.
By all public accounts, Trump appears to have a strong relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But a new report in Haaretz reveals that the president has described his Israeli counterpart as a “problem” while he pushes for a peace plan.
During a sideline meeting with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the General Assembly last month, Trump described problems he had with both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, according to Haaretz’ diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid.
“But the general context was that from the two of them, Netanyahu is the bigger problem,” a Western diplomat who was briefed on the meeting told Haaretz.
Trump reportedly still sees an opportunity for an Israel-Palestine peace plan, citing Abbas’ age and desire to leave a legacy, as well as Netanyahu’s acknowledgement of a friendly White House.
The honeymoon period may be ending for Trump in Israel, though. Earlier this week, an Israeli government minister publicly took a shot at Trump over the US’ stance on settlement building in the West Bank.
Ze’ev Elkin – Israel’s minister of environmental protection and a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party – said in an interview with NRG that while Trump’s administration is “far friendlier” than former President Barack Obama’s, they are still pressuring Israel to mitigate their settlement building.
“On this matter, the administration continues with the Obama tradition,” Elkin said.
He specifically mentioned pushback in the West Bank city of Hebron.
“Even this current administration, as friendly to us as they are, need to be told that some things are a national interest,” Elkin said.