Washington: Top US officials insisted today that they could still push forward the troubled Israeli-Palestinian peace process despite outrage across the Arab world over the opening of the new American embassy in Jerusalem. Speaking on the eve of the embassy opening, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was hopeful of success in efforts to end the decades-old conflict while National Security Advisor John Bolton said it should make peace “easier.”
President Donald Trump’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv broke with generations of international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Monday to protest the embassy opening.
The Palestinian Authority’s leadership has effectively refused to speak to Trump’s team since the move was announced, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is supposed to be spearheading a new drive for peace.
Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s delegation in Washington described the move as another step toward “a full-fledged apartheid.” “Tragically, the US administration has chosen to side with Israel’s exclusivist claims over a city that has for centuries been sacred to all faiths,” he said in a statement. “Today’s move of the US embassy gives life to a religious conflict instead of a dignified peace.”
Asked in an interview with Fox News Sunday about whether there was any life left in the peace process, Pompeo responded by saying “the peace process is most decidedly not dead.” “We’re hard at work on it. We hope we can achieve a successful outcome there as well,” said Pompeo whose first two weeks in office have been largely consumed with arranging a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
As well as the protests by the Palestinians, demonstrations are expected on Monday in other Arab capitals where governments have argued that the status of Jerusalem should only form part of a final peace agreement.
Pompeo said he was aware that there could be security concerns for US embassies and citizens in the region in the coming days. “The United States government has taken a number of actions to ensure that not only our governmental interests but the American people in that region are secure as well, and we’re comfortable we’ve taken action that reduces that risk,” said the top US diplomat.