Palestinians lambast Trump's 'audacious' comments on Jerusalem
Despite US president’s overtures to Palestinians promising ‘they’ll get something very good’, PLO and Hamas close ranks in condemning comments that his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital had removed the key sticking point of future negotiations 'off the table'; PLO slams ‘continued illusion of the American administration,’ while Hamas calls on PA to break ties with Washington.
A Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) statement said that Trump’s comments point to “the continuation of a biased policy in Israel’s favor, and the continued illusion of the American administration that it is possible to achieve the ‘deal of the century’ without Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.”
At a campaign rally in Charleston, West Virginia, Trump said Israel would “have to pay a higher price” in negotiations with the Palestinians in return for his December recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which was followed up by the transfer of the American Embassy to the city in May.
His overtures to the Palestinians by adding that “they’ll get something very good because it’s their turn next. Let’s see what happens" did little to allay the anger he sowed in the same remarks by repeating that he has “taken Jerusalem off the table.”
“And if there’s ever going to be peace—remember I said it—with the Palestinians it was a good thing to have done because we took it off the table because every time there were peace talks, they never got past Jerusalem becoming their capital, so I said let’s take it off the table,” Trump said, explaining his strategy,”
Hamas also joined the PLO in a show of unity against the the Trump administration and a predetermined rejection of his bid to achieve what he describes as the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Trump’s declarations, according to which Jerusalem is off the negotiation table, are audacious and dangerous and the right response would be to cancel the Palestinian Authority's recognition of the State of Israel, and cease all security coordination with Israel,” a Hamas statement said.
“The authority should also break all contacts, including security contacts, with the American administration," it continued.
During his speech, the president also criticized his predecessors for failing to deliver campaign promises to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the embassy to Jerusalem.
“And I understand now what happened. Because every president—many, many presidents—they said ‘we’re going to do it. We’re going to move our embassy to Jerusalem. It’s going to be the capital of Israel. We’re going to do it, we’re going to do it’ and then they don’t do it. Politicians, they don’t do it. So I said I’m going to do it,” the president said.
While eyebrows were raised in Israel at Trump’s comments, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) insisted that “there is no reason for concern.”
“The fundamental principles laid out by Prime Minister Netanyahu are accepted by the American administration,” Hanegbi said.
“If the Palestinians return to the negotiating table that they abandoned in April 2014, we will be sure of how to stand by and safeguard our interests and deflect reject any dictation or pressure,” the minister added.
According to Hangebi, the vast majority of the public in Israel support Likud’s policies and believe that any future peace agreement would have to ensure that “only Israel is responsible for the security of all of of Judea and Samaria, that Jerusalem is our eternal and united capital, and that the demand that refugees return to Israel is categorically scrapped.”
US National Security Advisor John Bolton also said on Wednesday Trump's comments were not intended to indicate that the December declaration was “an issue of quid pro quo.”
Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel during his diplomatic visit to Israel to discuss a range of Middle East issues, Bolton was asked to address Trump’s comments.
“As a dealmaker, as a bargainer, he would expect, you would expect, I would expect that the Palestinians would say ‘OK, great. So, we didn't get that one and now we want something else. And we’ll see how it goes,” Bolton responded.
“But the fundamental point is that ultimately this is something that the parties are going to have to agree on … When the parties talk about it and agree, they’ll decide between themselves what the price of that, if anything, was.”