JERUSALEM—Is Donald Trump the last best hope for the peace process?
As a candidate, Trump was an iconoclast in many ways, but by and large he hewed to the positions on Israel typical of Republican presidential candidates. Trump promised to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and railed against the Iran deal.
Trump’s promises reassured the Israeli right and the pro-Israel American right. He earned rave reviews from figures like the Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, who declared after the election that “Trump's victory is a tremendous opportunity for Israel to immediately announce its intention to renege on the idea of establishing Palestine in the heart of the country—a direct blow to our security and the justice of our cause.”
But Trump had, more than once, expressed an interest in the peace process during the campaign, even saying at one point that he would be a “neutral guy” on the issue. And as president, Trump has so far shown a surprising amount of focus and flexibility on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process—and a surprising amount of willingness to spend political and diplomatic capital on it, seeking what he calls the “ultimate deal.” Trump repeatedly professed his wish to make such a deal during Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to Washington earlier in May, which came a few weeks after Trump publicly asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press conference to “hold back” on Israeli settlements in the West Bank “for a little bit.” Trump hasn’t specifically promised that the ultimate deal means a two-state solution (“I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one that both parties like,” he said in February), but his National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has referred to “Palestinian self-determination.”