White House Official: No Direct Contact with Palestinian Leadership Since Jerusalem Recognition

US President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on February 15, 2017
AFP

TEL AVIV – Ties between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority have been suspended as a result of President Donald Trump’s December decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a senior White House official said Tuesday, amid other reports that the PA was now willing to include the U.S. as part of a multilateral bid for statehood.

The official, who was part of Vice President Mike Pence’s delegation to Israel, told Reuters that the Trump administration’s peace plan is likely to be presented later this year but is contingent on the Palestinians returning to the negotiating table.

Reuters reported:

A White House official told reporters he hoped the plan would be announced in 2018.

“It’ll come out both when it’s ready and when both sides are actually willing to engage on it,” said the White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official acknowledged that the United States and the Palestinian leadership had not had any direct diplomatic contact since Trump’s Jerusalem declaration.

Meanwhile, other reports emerged the same day that although the U.S. as broker to peace talks between the two sides was off the table, the Palestinian leadership was now willing to include Washington in an international framework towards recognition as an independent state.

Majdi al Khalidi, a senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Palestinians would seek support from international bodies such as the the Middle East Quartet, which includes the U.S., the United Nations, Russia and the European Union as well as through the permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“We cannot accept the United States alone. But we are not against the United States being part of a multilateral mechanism,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made it clear that the U.S. would be the only acceptable broker between the two parties.

“There is no alternative for American leadership in the diplomatic process,” he said Sunday. “Whoever is not ready to talk with the Americans about peace — does not want peace.”

Pence, who completed a two-day visit to Israel with a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem Tuesday afternoon, was snubbed by the Palestinians.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official at the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), slammed Pence’s “biblical messianic” approach to peace.

“The extremist positions of this U.S. administration and the biblical messianic message of Pence not only disqualified the U.S. as a peace broker but created conditions of volatility and instability in the region and beyond,” Ashrawi said.

Ashrawi is a notoriously anti-Israel Palestinian extremist.

For his part, Pence said “the door is open” for the Palestinians to resume negotiations.

“We understand they’re unhappy with [the Jerusalem] decision but the president wanted me to convey our willingness and desire to be a part of the peace process going forward,” Pence said.

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