In an interview published Friday, President Donald Trump told the Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom that he believes settlements “don’t help the [peace] process” and that he is still “studying” the potential move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“They (Israeli settlements) don’t help the process. I can say that. There is so much land left. And every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left,” Trump said, adding that he is “not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.”
Trump’s statement comes days after the Israeli Knesset passed the Regulation Law, which retroactively legalizes some 4,000 homes in outposts throughout Judea and Samaria. The law’s critics in the international community and in Israel believe the measure is unconstitutional and will likely be overturned by the Israeli High Court.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration had said, “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving” peace.
In the interview with Israel Hayom, Trump praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “good man” whom he has “always had good chemistry” with. Trump and Netanyahu will meet Feb. 15 at the White House.
Regarding the possible embassy relocation to the capital of Jerusalem, Trump took a more cautious tone than he did in previous statements during the presidential campaign, when he repeatedly vowed to move the embassy.
“I am thinking about the embassy, I am studying the embassy [issue], and we will see what happens. The embassy is not an easy decision,” Trump said. “It has obviously been out there for many, many years, and nobody has wanted to make that decision. I’m thinking about it very seriously, and we will see what happens.”
Trump also said he wishes to avoid public criticism of Israel.
“I don’t want to condemn Israel,” he said. “Israel has had a long history of condemnation and difficulty. And I don’t want to be condemning Israel. I understand Israel very well, and I respect Israel a lot, and they have been through a lot.”