US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference.
(photo credit: SAUL LOEB / AFP)
WASHINGTON – Not since March has Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, uttered the word “neutral” in reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ever since drawing ire from Democrats and Republicans alike for his use of the term.
And yet, if undecided, unknowing voters were to explore the GOP candidate’s positions by visiting his website for the first time today – six months later – they would find a video that states he still very much intends to remain a noncommittal arbiter of the decades-old conflict.
“It’s probably the hardest negotiation there is – great negotiators have tried and they failed,” Trump states in a video posted under the “issues” section of his official campaign website. “It’s just so deep-seeded – the hatred, the level of distrust – but I’m going to give it an awfully good shot. I want to remain as neutral as possible because, if you’re not somewhat neutral, the other side is never going to do it. But just remember, Israel, I love you. We’re going to see if we can get something done. It has to be done for both sides. It cannot continue to be the way it is.”
That last assertion – that the status quo is unsustainable – places Trump closer to the current position of the State Department than it does to Trump’s own advisers on Israel, who say it should be up to the Israeli government to decide how to proceed with the Palestinians.
The State Department supports direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that results in a two-state solution – a permanent settlement ending all claims. Toward that end, the department – under direction from both Democrats and Republicans – has pushed Israel to end its settlement activity in the West Bank, and for the Palestinian Authority to halt its incitement of violence against Jewish Israeli civilians.
Trump originally posted his issues video on Israel on March 6, amid controversy over his original remark on neutrality in the conflict back in February. Later in March, Trump appeared to walk back the position in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: “It’s probably not possible” to be neutral, he said, “because there’s so much hatred.” He has refrained from using the term ever since.
In a speech delivered this week on his plan to combat the scourge of terrorism worldwide, Trump referred to Israel as America’s “greatest ally,” and accused foreign peoples of importing the ideology of anti-Semitism to the United States.
But a group of GOP national security officials expressed concern to The Jerusalem Post
last week that Trump’s doctrine of unpredictability on decades-old, law-bound treaty alliances may apply to relations with the Jewish state; and his campaign has been stained by support for legions of Jewish conspiracy theorists, who have taken to social media in common cause with his candidacy.
Hillary Clinton attacked the position in her speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on March 21, questioning why Trump would be willing to draw a moral equivalence between the two sides of the conflict.
“We need steady hands, not a president who says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who knows what on Wednesday because everything is negotiable,“ Clinton. “Well, my friends, Israel’s security is non-negotiable.”