NEW YORK – U.S. President Donald Trump told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that he wants to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and that he still believes doing so is possible.
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“We are going to discuss peace between Israel and the Palestinians; it will be a fantastic achievement,” Trump said during a joint press event with Netanyahu prior to their meeting. “We are giving it absolute go – there is a good chance it could happen. Most people would say there is no chance whatsoever, but I think that with the ability of Bibi and the other side – I really think we have a chance.
“I think Israel and the Palestinians would like to see it and the Trump Administration would like to see it,” he continued. “We are working very hard on it and we will see what happens. Historically people say it can't happen but I say it can happen.”
Netanyahu and his staff have insisted in recent days that his meeting with Trump would focus on Iran, and he seemed a bit surprised by the president’s remarks. He himself said at the press event that he wants to discuss “the terrible nuclear deal with Iran and how to roll back Iran’s growing aggression in the region, especially in Syria.”
He added that he would be happy to discuss the peace process, but stressed that peace with the Palestinians must be accompanied by peace with the Arab states. He concluded by thanking the Trump administration for its diplomatic support in UN institutions, saying its position on Israel at the United Nations has been clear and powerful.
Shortly before the meeting, the pair's third since Trump took office in January, the president tweeted, "Looking forward to meeting with Prime Minister @Netanyahu shortly. Peace in the Middle East would be a truly great legacy for ALL people!"
Prior to Trump's talk with Netanyahu, which marked the leaders' first meeting since the president came to Israel in May, senior Israeli and American officials said the two leaders would discuss the nuclear deal between Iran and the great powers and Trump's efforts to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Earlier on Monday, Trump vowed to pull out of the nuclear accord if Washington deems that the UN agency monitoring the agreement is not stringent enough in doing so.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly, and like many of his previous speeches to that forum he is expected to focus on the Iranian issue. A day later, Trump is slated to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss jump-starting the peace process.