US President Donald Trump said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “a bigger peace obstacle” to peace efforts in the Middle East than Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
According to Haaretz
, Trump made the remark while addressing the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during a meeting at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City in September.
The publication also cited a western diplomat who had been briefed on the meeting. He said that Trump had acknowledged both leaders were being "problematic," however the Israeli leader was "the bigger problem.”
Meanwhile, according to a report on The Hill
, a senior White House official disputed the account of the meeting from Haaretz.
"This was a short but productive meeting that primarily focused on UN reforms and the great job Ambassador Haley has been doing. After discussing the United States' defence of Israel at the UN, the participants quickly addressed the ongoing peace conversations," the official said.
"The president said that he feels both sides want to make peace and he remains optimistic about an enduring peace deal. We are focusing on our productive conversations and not on the noise created by spoilers," he added.
According to the report on Haaretz, Guterres motivated Trump to continue his peace efforts, mentioning that an ageing Habbas and a friendly White House for Netanyahu presented “a unique opportunity for peace discussions.”
Trump and Netanyahu both used a positive tone while addressing the press at the UNGA.
"We're going to be discussing many things, among them a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis, a fantastic achievement,” Trump said.
“We are giving it an absolute go. I think there's a good chance it could happen. Most people would say there is no chance it could happen. ... Israel would like to see it. Palestinians would like to see it. I can tell the Trump administration would like to see it. We're working very hard. We'll see what happens. Historically people say it can't happen. I'd say it can happen," he added.
Netanyahu said the US' position toward Israel at the UNGA, under the leadership of Trump, has been “strong” and full of “clarity and conviction.”