Trump pledges to be 'neutral guy' in Israel-Palestinian negotiations

Donald Trump: I think Obama 'hates Israel'
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  • "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," Trump added
  • "A lot of people say an agreement can't be made, which is OK, sometimes agreements can't be made, not good," he said

Washington (CNN)Donald Trump said Wednesday night he'd be "a neutral guy" when it comes to negotiating the Israel-Palestinian conflict, during an MSNBC-hosted town hall.

In an exchange about the potential for a peace agreement, anchor Joe Scarborough asked the Republican front-runner, "Whose fault do you think it is?"
    "I don't want to get into it for a different reason, Joe, because if I do win, there has to be a certain amount of surprise, unpredictability," he said at a town hall Wednesday, adding that by declining to tip his hand, he would be in a better position to negotiate.
    "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," Trump said.
    The remark contrasts with the many Republicans -- and some Democrats -- who often pledge unequivocal support for Israel.
    Trump said reaching a peace agreement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "probably the toughest agreement of any kind to make."
    "A lot of people say an agreement can't be made, which is OK, sometimes agreements can't be made, not good," he said.
    "It is a very, very tough agreement to make," Trump added. "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 comment has given more hawkish candidates room to pounce. Ted Cruz on Friday noted Trump's comment in one of his closing messages the day before the South Carolina primary.
    "Just this week, Donald Trump said on a TV program that he would be neutral between Israel and the Palestinians," Cruz said to boos in Charleston, South Carolina. "As president, I have no intention of being neutral. As president, I will be unapologetically with the nation of Israel."
    Trump previously touted his pro-Israel bona fides in an attempt to connect with an audience of wealthy Jewish donors at the Republican Jewish Coalition's Presidential Forum.
    "I'm a negotiator like you folks, we are negotiators," Trump said in December, drawing laughter before pivoting to how he would renegotiate the Iran deal. "Is there anybody that doesn't renegotiate deals in this room? This room negotiates them -- perhaps more than any other room I've ever spoken in."
    Trump previously suggested that the burden of peace rested largely on the shoulders of the Jewish state, saying a peace deal "will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal -- whether or not Israel's willing to sacrifice certain things."
    At the forum, Trump said he doesn't know whether "Israel has the commitment to make (a peace deal) and I don't know that the other side has the commitment to make it."
    "It has to be said that Israel has given a lot," Trump said, adding, "I don't know whether or not they want to go along to that final step (of making a deal)."