Trump surprised by Israeli readiness to make a peace deal with the Palestinians
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Trump surprised by Israeli readiness to make a peace deal with the Palestinians

Donald Trump addressing the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., March 21, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Donald Trump addressing the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C., March 21, 2016. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Donald Trump said Israel appears more ready to make an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal than he previously believed.

“From the Israeli side, they would love to see a deal,” Trump, the front-runner in the race for the Republican presidential nod, told The New York Times in an extensive foreign policy Q&A posted over the weekend.

“And I’ve been a little bit surprised here. Now that I’m really into it, I’ve been a little bit surprised to hear that,” he said. “I would’ve said, I would’ve said that maybe, maybe you know, maybe Israel never really wanted to make a deal or doesn’t really want to make a deal. They really want to make a deal, they want to make a good deal, they want to make a fair deal, but they do want to make a deal.”

Trump had said at a Republican Jewish Coalition candidates forum in December that he questioned whether the Israelis or the Palestinians had the commitment to make a peace deal.

In a speech last week at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference, Trump showed he had gravitated toward center-right pro-Israel orthodoxies, and he repeated some of them in his conversation with the Times, including a demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s Jewish character.

“The Palestinian Authority has to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state,” he said. “And they have to stop the terror, stop the attacks, stop the teaching of hatred, you know? The children, I sort of talked about it pretty much in the speech, but the children are aspiring to grow up to be terrorists. They are taught to grow up to be terrorists.”

Discussing the Iran nuclear deal, Trump expressed surprise that sanctions remaining in place keep Iran from spending money released in the deal in the United States.

“They are, they are now rich, and did you notice they’re buying from everybody but the United States?” Trump said.

He has derided the sanctions relief for nuclear rollback deal between Iran and six major powers as giving up too much to Iran.

“They’re buying planes, they’re buying everything, they’re buying from everybody but the United States.”

David Sanger, a New York Times reporter, told Trump that sanctions in place kept Iran from trading to the United States. The Obama administration is keeping sanctions in place and in some cases adding new ones to maintain leverage against Iran in its backing of terrorism and its human rights abuses.

“Uh, excuse me?” Trump said, apparently unaware of the sanctions. “So how stupid is that? We give them the money, and we now say, ‘Go buy Airbus instead of Boeing,’ right? So how stupid is that?”