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Trump tells Israeli newspaper Jerusalem move was a high point

President Donald Trump smiles during the National Prayer Breakfast, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in Washington. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
President Donald Trump smiles during the National Prayer Breakfast, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, in Washington. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
Associated Press

JERUSALEM – An Israeli newspaper on Friday quoted President Donald Trump as saying his recognition of Jerusalem as the country’s capital was one of the highlights of his presidency thus far.

Israel Hayom – a free daily that largely backs Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – carried some quotes Friday from an interview with Trump to be published next week.

When asked to name the most memorable event of his presidency, it quotes Trump as saying “I think Jerusalem was a very big point. And I think it was a very important point. The capital, having Jerusalem be your great capital, was a very important thing to a lot of people.”

On Dec. 6 Trump honored a campaign promise by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and vowed to relocate the U.S. Embassy to the city.

The Palestinians also claim east Jerusalem, home to the city’s most sensitive holy sites, as the capital of their hoped-for state. The move sparked outrage among the Palestinians and across the Muslim world, and Palestinian leaders said Washington could no longer serve as a Mideast peace broker.

“I have been thanked and in some cases not thanked, to be 100% honest about it. But it was a very important pledge that I made and I fulfilled my pledge,” Trump said.

“The other presidents, all of them have failed in the promise even though they made it as a campaign promise but I understand it because I will tell you, the lobbying against it was tremendous,” Trump said.

Trump has promised to pursue what he called the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians. Since taking office, Trump has distanced himself somewhat from the two-state solution to the conflict that envisions a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Trump’s Jerusalem declaration upended decades of U.S. policy and countered an international consensus that the fate of the holy city should be decided in peace negotiations. He said the move was not meant to prejudge negotiations on the final borders of the city and instead merely recognizes that Jerusalem already serves as Israel’s capital.

“By taking Jerusalem off the table I wanted to make it clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and as for specific boundaries would support what both sides agreed to,” Trump said.

He added “I think both sides will have to make hard compromises to reach a peace agreement.”

Also Friday, U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman lashed out at the liberal Haaretz over an editorial by one of the newspaper’s opinion writers that used a derogatory word play to describe a West Bank settlement home to an Israeli who was recently stabbed to death by a Palestinian.

“What has become of Haaretz?” Friedman tweeted. He wrote that four young children are “mourning their murdered father and this publication calls their community a ‘mountain of curses.’ Have they no decency?”

Itamar Ben Gal, 29, was killed near a bus stop close to the entrance to a West Bank settlement earlier this week. The assailant fled the scene.

Ben Gal was from a different settlement whose name in English means “mountain of blessing.”

Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken in response tweeted in defense of the opinion piece. He warned that there will be more mourning “as long as the policy of Israel – that your government and yourself support – is obstructing (the) peace process, practical annexation of the (West Bank) territories.”

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