TEL AVIV – U.S. and Israeli officials on Wednesday attempted to downplay President Donald Trump’s remark a day earlier saying Israel would pay “a higher price” in any negotiations with the Palestinians as a result of the U.S.’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“The U.S. will not impose unacceptable conditions on Israel in its peace plan,” senior U.S. officials told Israel’s Channel 10.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton wrapped up a visit to Jerusalem by allaying concerns that Trump’s remark did not signify any change in Washington’s policy.
“I don’t think there’s any change in policy. I think the president looked at the recognition of Jerusalem as being Israel’s capital and the inevitable consequence of that is that the U.S. embassy ought to be in the capital city of the country which its accredited as the right and natural thing to do,” Bolton told reporters. “It’s not an issue of quid pro quo.”
Trump on Tuesday said the Palestinians “will get something very good” in his peace proposal.
“It was a good thing to have done,” Trump said, referencing the Jerusalem declaration and the subsequent relocation of the U.S. embassy there, “because we took it off the table. Because every time there were peace talks, they never got past Jerusalem becoming the capital. So I said, let’s take it off the table. And you know what? In the negotiation, Israel will have to pay a higher price, because they won a very big thing.” The Palestinians “will get something very good, because it’s their turn next. Let’s see what happens.”
The Palestinians responded by deeming Trump’s remarks “worthless.”
Ahmed Tamimi, a senior PLO official, said that Trump’s remarks signalled the “continued American policy that is biased in favor of Israel.”
The fact that Trump “excluded Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state in any future settlement” proves “the ongoing illusions that the US administration is living under with regards to the possibility of implementing” any kind of peace plan.
“Jerusalem is in the hearts of the Palestinians and Arabs and Muslims,” he said. “If Trump was able to remove Jerusalem from the negotiating table, he won’t be able to remove it from the hearts.”
“The U.S. administration will not find one Palestinian who agrees with its policies,” he added.
Bolton seemed to infer that Trump was disappointed with the Palestinian response.
“As a deal maker he would expect that the Palestinians would say, ‘Okay, great, we didn’t get that one, now we want something else.’ We’ll see how it goes,” he said.
Bolton said “the president did the right thing in moving the embassy to Israel’s capital, and that in and of itself brings reality to the negotiations.”
“It was a very positive step forward not just for Israel, but for the Palestinians as well,” he insisted.
“Any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is going to require agreement of the parties, it’s not something the US is prepared to force on anybody,” he said.