Trump told UN head Netanyahu is bigger peace obstacle than Abbas: report

Trump told UN head Netanyahu is bigger peace obstacle than Abbas: report
© Courtesy WhiteHouse.gov

President Trump told U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was more of an obstacle to peace efforts in the Middle East than Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to Haaretz.

Trump reportedly made the comments during a meeting with Guterres at last month's United Nations General Assembly in New York City. 

A Western diplomat who had been briefed on the meeting told the publication Trump had acknowledged both leaders were being "problematic," but the Israeli leader was "the bigger problem. 

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A senior White House official disputed the account of the meeting from Haaretz.

"This was a short but productive meeting that primarily focused on U.N. reforms and the great job Ambassador Haley has been doing. After discussing the United States' defense of Israel at the U.N., 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."

According to the report, Guterres encouraged Trump to continue his peace efforts, noting that an aging Habbas and a friendly White House for Netanyahu presented a unique opportunity for peace discussions. 

Trump and Netanyahu struck an optimistic tone while speaking to the press last month at the U.N. summit. 

"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 continued. 

Netanyahu said that under the leadership of Trump the U.S. position toward Israel at the United Nations has been “strong” and full of “clarity and conviction.” 

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has been tasked with leading the administration’s efforts to bring about peace in the region.