NEW YORK (JTA) – Donald Trump would retreat from the longstanding American commitment to establish a Palestinian state if elected president, an adviser to the presumptive Republican U.S. presidential candidate said.
In an interview last week with the Israeli daily Haaretz, Trump adviser David Friedman also said the presumptive Republican nominee would support the expansion of Israeli settlements.
American presidents of both parties have supported the creation of a Palestinian state for decades. In the presidential campaign, Trump has also committed to working to reach Israeli-Palestinian peace. But Friedman, who heads a group that funds Israeli settlement activity in addition to working for Trump, told Haaretz that Trump would leave the question of establishing a Palestinian state to the Israeli government.
“The Israelis have to make the decision on whether or not to give up land to create a Palestinian state,” Friedman told Haaretz. “If the Israelis don’t want to do it, so he doesn’t think they should do it. It is their choice. … He does not think it is an American imperative for it to be an independent Palestinian state.”
In the absence of a peace deal, Friedman said, Trump would have no problem with the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a policy the United States has consistently opposed since Israel took control of the territory in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Israel “has a commitment to its citizens in Judea and Samaria,” Friedman said, using the biblical term for the West Bank. “Trump’s position is that we have to deal with reality and not hopes and wishes.”
Friedman also suggested Trump might support unilateral Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank, though he said he hasn’t discussed that issue with the candidate. The Israeli pro-settler Jewish Home Party, as well as some Likud government ministers, support partial West bank annexation.
Friedman said Trump would be enthusiastic about signing a new military aid deal with Israel, should an agreement not be concluded by the end of U.S. President Barack Obama’s term.