Trump Asked Netanyahu if He 'Really Cares About Peace,' Report Says

In a call that took place last year, Axios claims Trump raised question with Netanyahu after learning that Israel was planning additional settlements

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2018
\ KEVIN LAMARQUE/ REUTERS

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call last year if he "really cares about peace," according to a report published Sunday on the Axios website.

The report didn't specify when the phone call took place exactly, but it stated that a number of Trump's advisers were "shocked" by the president's question.

To really understand Israel and the Palestinians - subscribe to Haaretz 

According to the report, Trump raised the question after learning through news reports that Netanyahu was planning additional building in the settlements.

"Trump thought Bibi [Netanyahu] was unnecessarily angering the Palestinians," reporter Jonathan Swan wrote, "so, in the course of a longer conversation that was mostly friendly and complimentary, he bluntly asked Bibi whether or not he genuinely wants peace."

The White House didn't deny the report, but instead explained that Trump and Netanyahu have a strong and positive relationship. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, clarified that Trump has "great relationships with a number of foreign leaders, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be aggressive when it comes to negotiating what’s best for America."

Trump has consistently stated since entering the White House that he hopes to achieve the "ultimate deal" – a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. However, ever since his decision last December to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Palestinians have refused to engage with his administration, accusing it of being biased toward Israel and of completely adopting the positions of Netanyahu.

The Trump administration publicly distanced itself from Netanyahu on one single occasion earlier this year, when it put out a statement denying Netanyahu's claims that he was discussing settlements annexation with the administration. Apart from that, it has not criticized Israel for building in the West Bank and has given Israel total public backing in light of recent events on the Gaza border

Trump, though, wrote on his Twitter account in January that Israel "would have had to pay more" for the recognition of Jerusalem as its capital if the Palestinians had not decided to boycott his administration over that decision. It's not clear what Trump was referring to.

The exact details of a peace plan his administration is currently working on have yet to be made public. White House officials told Haaretz last month that it will be "sellable" to both the Israeli and Palestinian publics.

On Sunday, It was reported that Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner – both of whom are advisers to the president – are expected to represent the U.S. administration at the opening ceremony of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem next month.