Donald Trump Wants to Hold to Middle Ground on Mideast, for Now

Donald J. Trump spoke at a rally in Sumter, S.C., on Wednesday.

By Maggie Haberman – – – –

Donald J. Trump declined to say on which side deserves blame for the violent clashes between Israelis and Palestinians, adding he wants to remain “neutral” heading into a potential presidency so he can be best positioned to negotiate a deal between the two sides

Mr. Trump made the comments during a town-hall event in South Carolina hosted on MSNBC. A voter asked what steps Mr. Trump would take “to establish an agreement between both sides” after so many failed negotiations in the past.

“I think it’s probably the toughest agreement of any kind to make. It has been going on for many years; many friends of mine have been involved; they’re very good businessmen, good negotiators,” Mr. Trump said. “A lot of people say an agreement can’t be made, which is O.K., sometimes agreements can’t be made, not good. But you have both sides really, but you have one side in particular growing up and learning that these are the worst people, these are the worst people, etc., etc.”

He added, “I was with a very prominent Israeli the other day” who “said it’s impossible because the other side has been trained from the time they’re children to hate Jewish people. But I will give it one hell of a shot. That I can tell you. But of all agreements — I would say if you can do that deal you can do any deal. That’s probably the toughest deal in the world right now to make and it’s possible it’s not makeable because don’t forget, it has to last.”

When pressed on who is at “fault” for the failure to reach an agreement, Mr. Trump said he didn’t want to say. “Because if I do win, there has to be a certain amount of surprise, unpredictability, our country has no unpredictability. If I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying to you, and the other side now says, ‘We don’t want Trump involved, we don’t want … ‘

“Let me be sort of a neutral guy, let’s see what — I’m going to give it a shot. It would be so great.”

Mr. Trump has frequently praised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who sought Mr. Trump’s endorsement in his last re-election.

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