In his first long statement about Israel since winning the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump called the Jewish state a “beacon of hope” and vowed to help it make peace with the Palestinians without imposing solutions.
Trump made the statement to Israel Hayom, an Israeli daily owned by Sheldon Adelson, a Jewish casino tycoon who donated significant funds to the Republican candidate’s campaign. The newspaper published the interview with Trump on Friday.
“Israel and America share so many of the same values, such as freedom of speech, freedom of worship and the importance of creating opportunities for all citizens to pursue their dreams,” Trump was quoted as saying. “Israel is the one true democracy and defender of human rights in the Middle East and a beacon of hope to countless people.”
Trump added that he hoped his administration would play a “significant role in helping the parties to achieve a just, lasting peace,” saying that any deal would have to be directly negotiated between the two sides. Peace, he added, “must be negotiated between the parties themselves and not imposed on them by others. Israel and the Jewish people deserve no less.”
France is currently pushing for an international conference to discuss peace in the Middle East, but Israel says any talks should be bilateral ones between the two sides.
The Palestinians have called for international involvement, accusing Israel of reneging on past agreements and expanding its settlements in the West Bank, as well as in eastern Jerusalem. Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting against Jews and Israelis, refusing to meet with Israeli officials to conduct peace talks and insisting on preconditions that Israel says effectively bar such talks from taking place.
Israel’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, said Wednesday that the U.S. election result meant the idea of a Palestinian state was over. He was one of the several right-wing politicians in Israel to hail Trump as a turning point from the policies advanced by President Barack Obama.
Trump, who defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the vote on Tuesday, has been widely perceived as favoring a more impartial American attitude to the conflict than that of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.