President Trump said Monday in Jerusalem that achieving peace between Israel and Palestine is “not easy.” That might sound like an obvious statement, yet it represents a humble concession from a president who seemed convinced until very recently that brokering an accord would not be terribly difficult.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington in February, Trump said this at a joint news conference:
I think a deal will be made. I know that every president would like to. Most of them have not started until late because they never thought it was possible. And it wasn't possible because they didn't do it.
But Bibi and I have known each other a long time — a smart man, great negotiator. And I think we're going to make a deal. It might be a bigger and better deal than people in this room even understand.
Just last month, Trump told Reuters that “there is no reason there's not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — none whatsoever.”
Trump's attitude seemed to be that his predecessors simply lacked the will and skill to negotiate peace, but that he — an expert dealmaker — would come up with a better solution than anyone could imagine. Since there is “no reason” for continued conflict, how hard could it be?
The president's tone was quite different when he spoke alongside Netanyahu on Monday:
America welcomes the action and support of any nation willing to do the hard but vital work in eradicating the violent ideologies that have caused so much needless bloodshed and killing here and all over the world. We are willing to work together. I believe that a new level of partnership is possible and will happen, one that will bring greater safety to this region, greater security to the United States and greater prosperity to the world.
This includes a renewed effort at peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I thank the prime minister for his commitment to pursuing the peace process. He’s working very hard at it; it’s not easy. I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all, but I have a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually — I hope.
Note that Trump said he has heard that peace between Israel and Palestine is “one of the toughest deals of all.” He put the admission in someone else's mouth and, given his tendency to be influenced by the last person to talk to him, it is possible that Trump was simply repeating something a member of his team — or even Netanyahu — told him.
Still, Trump's “feeling” and “hope” for a deal “eventually” are a far cry from “there is no reason there's not peace” — and he delivered those words in his own voice. It is also possible that as he grows into the role of president, Trump is gaining a fuller appreciation for the complexities of international diplomacy.