US President Donald Trump will not “turn on Israel,” Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) said on Wednesday.
Hanegbi’s remarks followed Trump’s comments that Israel will have to pay a high price in negotiations with the Palestinians for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy there.
“The fact is that he has not turned on us, and we are coming up to the middle of his term,” Hanegbi said of the US president, in an Army Radio interview. “And I can say as someone who has intensive contacts with the White House – I was there only three weeks ago – that he will not turn on us.”
Speaking on Tuesday at a campaign rally in Charleston, West Virginia, Trump said that recognizing Jerusalem was a “good thing to have done,” but that Israel will pay “a higher price because they won a very big thing – but I took it off the table. They could never get past the fact of Jerusalem becoming the capital. Now it’s off the table – there’s nothing to negotiate. But they [the Palestinians] will get something very good ‘cause it’s their turn next. Let’s see what happens.”
Hanegbi cautioned against getting worked-up over comments by Trump, whom he said “has a warm spot in his heart for Israel.”
According to Hanegbi, Trump is trying to “find a way into” the hearts of the Palestinians to regain their confidence in the US as an “honest broker.”
The Palestinian Authority has cut off all diplomatic contact with Washington since the US announced the move in December, and has rejected the long-awaited Trump peace proposal even before it has been presented.
While Trump gave the Palestinians two words – “higher price” – he gave Jerusalem to Israel, Hanegbi said.
“I am relaxed,” he said.
Hanegbi added that he hoped Trump succeeded in rebuilding Palestinian confidence “so that they feel that he thinks about them, and not only us.”
The minister and veteran politician said that in his 30 years in the Knesset, he has seen many US presidents, some more sympathetic to Israel, and some who have been tougher on Israel.
“The principal position of this administration is that it understands – it is not fawning toward us, it understands – Israel’s strategic situation,” he said. “We are pleased with that.”
Deputy minister and former ambassador to the US Michael Oren (Kulanu) said that Trump’s comments were “expected.”
“As a businessman, President Trump expects every side to make concessions, even if they are painful,” he said. “Likewise, he intends to extract a price from each side if they leave the negotiations table.”
He characterized the Trump administration as the most friendly Israel has ever known. As such, he said, Jerusalem should do everything it can to make the administration happy. Oren is a historian and author of 2007’s Power, Faith and Fantasy, a book that traces America’s role in the Middle East since the time of the country’s founding fathers.
“Israel should accept any framework that is offered with an open mind and an eye on the general strategic picture,” Oren said. “Israel should say ‘yes,’ even ‘yes, but,’ [to the US plan when it is presented], and let the Palestinians come across ‘for a change’ as those refusing.”