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Trump: ‘Palestinians are not looking to make peace’
Mon Feb 12, 2018 2:23pm

February 12, 2018

By: Boaz Bizmuth/Israel Hayom / Exclusive to

In interview with Israel Hayom Editor-in-Chief Boaz Bismuth, US President Donald Trump says, “I have achieved more than I had promised” in first year of term • “Israel has to be careful with settlements,” he says, adding that Israelis and Palestinians would be “foolish” not to make a peace deal.

“I expect to be here a long time,” US President Donald Trump said to me when I asked him whether the ayatollah regime would still be in place in Iran when he leaves office. “We will see.”

When it comes to the leader of the free world, a remark like this can be taken as a semi-threat. One thing is clear: The US no longer views Iran as a “stabilizing” power, or even remotely as one of the good guys in the region, the way Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, often did.

I interviewed Trump before the latest escalation in Israel’s north, before Israel clashed with Syrian and Iranian forces at the Syrian border on Saturday. But even then, it was painfully clear that Syria and Iran are testing the US, checking how far they can push the Americans (including reports of chemical attacks and hospital bombings in recent days).

When I asked Trump if Israel is free to operate in Syria and in Lebanon against Iranian targets, he adopted an air of uncharacteristic ambiguity. But the message was clear – when it comes to Iran, it is best to let actions do the talking. The US is keeping its cards close to its chest.

Q: Is it possible to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria and in Lebanon?

“You are going to see. You can watch [and see].”

Q: Do you think Israel has a right to defend itself if such bases are in fact established in Syria and Lebanon?

“I don’t want to comment on that right now. It is too soon.”

Unlike Obama, Trump realizes that actions are far more powerful than speeches (actions like bombing Syria or relocating the American embassy, for example). It appears that Trump understands the profound truth behind the iconic line: “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”

As someone who has personally met Trump on a number of occasions, including three times in the Oval Office, I could sense a change in him this time. In my view, the change was for the better. He was more serious, more thoughtful, considering my questions before firing back, and also more inquisitive, asking me far more questions for a change.

Not only has he fulfilled his campaign promise on Jerusalem (officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Dec. 6), it was apparent that the very question regarding the meaning of his Jerusalem recognition took him by surprise. To him, the meaning of the move is self-evident. Anyone with a brain should be able to understand it, even if they don’t agree with it.

Like his predecessors, Trump was dragged into the Middle East at the very start of his presidency. But unlike the others, Trump had a particularly challenging inheritance to confront, bequeathed to him by the former occupant of the White House: a massive Russian and Iranian presence in the heart of the Syrian conflict, which by then had transformed from a local to a regional strategic problem.

Anyone trying to gauge Trump’s policy in the region on the basis of the last year must keep in mind two key events: Trump placed Iran under caution over its ballistic missile test, and earlier, bombed Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. Both maneuvers resulted in the desired effect, at least in the short term. And this was just a taste of wheat Trump is expected to do if the provocations continue.

Contrary to the reputation he gained during his campaign, Trump actually prefers actions over talking. When he identifies an opportunity, he doesn’t hesitate – he strikes. Iran and Syria should take that under advisement. He has maintained this stance despite the fact that Obama complicated matters for his successor when he stood idly by while the Russian started entering Syria in 2015.


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