Trump: Netanyahu is 'a bigger problem' than Abbas

WH denies claim President Trump told UN Chief that Israeli PM Netanyahu is a 'bigger problem' in negotiations than PA chief Mahmoud Abbas.

David Rosenberg , | updated: 7:41 PM

Abbas and Trump
Abbas and Trump

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu touted their cordial relationship during and after the president’s May trip to the Jewish state – a welcome change from the often frigid relations between Jerusalem and Washington during the eight years of the Obama administration.

According to a report by Haaretz this week, however, behind closed doors President Trump expressed criticism of Prime Minister Netanyahu, telling United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Netanyahu was a “bigger problem” than PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in efforts to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The comments were allegedly made last month as world leaders gathered in the UN General Assembly.

Haaretz cited an unnamed Western diplomat who was not present during the Guterres-Trump meeting meeting, but claimed claimed he was briefed on it.

“Trump said both leaders are problematic,” the source claimed. “But the general context was that from the two of them, Netanyahu is the bigger problem.”

President Trump has urged both Israel and the PA to return to the negotiating table and work towards a final status agreement. Talks between Israel and the PA have been frozen since 2014.

In the past, President Trump reportedly expressed frustration with PA chief Abbas, and privately excoriated him regarding his party’s involvement in anti-Israel incitement.

A senior White House official denied the report by Haaretz, saying the anonymous source misrepresented the meeting between Trump and the UN Secretary-General.

“This was a short but productive meeting that primarily focused on UN reforms and the great job [Nikki] Haley has been doing. After discussing the United States’ defense of Israel at the UN, the participants quickly addressed the ongoing peace conversations. 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.”

Six other diplomats and one Israeli official cited by Haaretz claim more than half of Trump’s 15-minute meeting with Guterres dealt with Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict.

According to the diplomats, the president claimed that that Prime Minister Netanyahu knows that he will never face a more understanding White House, and as such he may be prepared to reached an agreement with the PA.

Despite past statements acknowledging that reaching a comprehensive final status agreement was a long shot, the sources claimed President Trump expressed optimism during his talk with Guterres, saying he felt upbeat about his chances to reach a historic accord.