US President Donald Trump has asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he actually cares about establishing peace in the Middle East, according to a report.
Trump made the blunt assertion during a phone call with Netanyahu last year where the two men discussed a potential peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
Trump had mentioned Netanyahu’s pronouncements of building additional settlements in order to ingratiate his conservative supporters. The US president then reportedly warned the Israeli premier about the provocative move which he said would anger the Palestinians.
According to three officials familiar with the content of the call, Trump then asked Netanyahu if he really wants peace or not.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the news outlet that President 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 said Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories have “complicated” the so-called peace process and urged “care” over the issue.
Trump’s reported comments about the Israeli regime mark rare criticism from a president who has adopted a hostile policy toward the Palestinians while forging close relations with Israel.
About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
Trump has already infuriated Palestinians with his decision to recognize Jerusalem al-Quds as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the holy city.
The dramatic shift in Washington’s policy vis-à-vis the city triggered demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco, and other Muslim countries.
Last month, Trump met with Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, DC. He was in the US to deliver a speech to America’s biggest pro-Israel group — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) — and resume his critique of the Iran nuclear deal.