President Donald Trump’s decision Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital could temporarily derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, two senior White House officials acknowledged after Trump’s speech.
White House officials: Jerusalem decision could hurt peace process
The question now for those officials: For how long?
« We’re prepared for derailment — temporary, I hope. Pretty sure it will be temporary, » said a senior White House official, who acknowledged that the President’s peace team has not spoken with furious Palestinian officials since the Trump’s announcement.
That « derailment » was a cost the White House was prepared to accept to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise. And two senior White House officials said they felt making the announcement now — before Israelis and Palestinians have reached the negotiating table — would help mitigate the damage to the peace process.
« A lot of people put their heads into this decision to see how do we make this happen without at the same time throwing the peace process out of the window, » one of the officials said.
« In terms of a moment where it could happen, where it could be the least disruptive at a moment in time, this is the moment, » the second official said. « We know there will be some short term pain, but think it will help in the long run. »
Trump’s decision Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and direct the State Department to begin moving the embassy there comes after months during which Trump’s peace team has focused on meeting with Israelis and Palestinians, gathering ideas and building relationships. Now, the officials said, they are in the midst of drafting a tentative peace accord, but have yet to seek to draw both sides back to the negotiating table.
But the move left Palestinian officials fuming, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his chief negotiator Saeb Erakat blasting the US decision and claiming Trump’s move « disqualified » the US from mediating the peace process.
The White House officials expressed hope that the Trump administration has built enough trust with the Palestinians to push through the current friction, but could not say when they believed the relationship would be patched up.