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JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump said his visit here has shown him that Israelis and Palestinians are “ready for peace” as he reaffirmed the United States’ support for one of its top allies during a speech with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.
Trump told the Israeli crowd that his meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his conversations with Netanyahu, left him certain that the elusive deal is within reach.
“The Palestinians are ready to reach for peace. I know you’ve heard it before — I am telling you, that’s what I do,” Trump said during remarks at the Israel Museum.
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The speech — which offered no concrete proposals for Israel-Palestinian peace — brought to a close the second leg of his first foreign trip that has focused on bringing together the world’s religions in an effort to combat terrorism. Trump first visited Saudi Arabia where he called on Muslims to combat extremism, and from Israel he will head to Rome where he will meet Pope Francis.
“People of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their conscience. And to follow their dreams, right here. Today, gathered with friends, I call upon all people, Jews, Christians, Muslims and every faith, every tribe, every creed to draw inspiration from this ancient city to set aside our sectarian differences,” Trump said.
But the president’s strongest applause lines from the crowd here were his vows to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
"Iran’s leaders routinely call for Israel’s destruction. Not with Donald J. Trump. Believe me," he said to a standing ovation.
On hand to hear the speech were former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, pro-Israel GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog.
In an interview with NBC News before Trump’s remarks, Huckabee said Trump’s “fresh and different” approach to peace might help him succeed in brokering an elusive peace in the Middle East. “He’s not preconditioned by most political conventions that say ‘this is how this has to work out.’”
“Let’s give it a chance,” Herzog said of the possibility for peace with Palestine. “This is the moment where one needs to face reality and decide if he wants to make history or not.” He was clear, however, that a two-state solution was the only way — even if Trump has expressed openness to other options.
“There's no other solution,” he said. “One cannot escape away from it."
But the complexities of a peace deal were visibly on display as Netanyahu began his remarks by saying that if Monday night’s blast in Manchester had been a Palestinian attack on Israelis, the bomber’s family would have gotten a stipend.
“Stop rewarding terrorists. Stop glorifying murderers,” Netanyahu directed Abbas. “I believe that this is the first and the crucial step towards a road to genuine peace.”