Abbas aide: To offset embassy move, Trump must make East Jerusalem our capital

After US president says Israel will now pay ‘higher price’ in talks, Majdi al-Khaldi says Washington needs to recognize State of Palestine, back two-state solution

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Majdi al-Khaldi, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's senior diplomatic adviser. (Wafa)
Majdi al-Khaldi, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's senior diplomatic adviser. (Wafa)

The only “compensation” the US could provide to the Palestinians for its Jerusalem moves would be recognition of “the State of Palestine” with East Jerusalem as its capital, a senior diplomatic adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday.

Addressing US President Donald Trump’s statement that Israel would pay a “higher price” for recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Majdi al-Khaldi also said Washington would have to recognize the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “the sole solution.”

At a rally in West Virginia on Tuesday, Trump said that he took competing claims over Jerusalem, one of the conflict’s most intractable disputes, off the table by recognizing the city as Israel’s capital and moving the American embassy there.

However, he also said that “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.”

US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally August 21, 2018, at the Civic Center in Charleston West Virginia. (AP Photo/Tyler Evert)

He did not define the “price” Israel would have to pay. 

“The American administration made a major mistake when it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassy there,” Khaldi told The Times of Israel. “There is no compensation the administration could offer for those moves other than recognizing the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital and clearly defining the two-state solution as the sole solution.” 

Since Trump announced his Jerusalem moves, the Palestinians have refused to meet with many members of the Trump administration including the White House officials responsible for the Middle East peace process. 

Abbas has also said that the US no longer can be the “sole” mediator of the peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis and called for the establishment of a multilaterally-mediated mechanism to broker it. 

Khaldi also criticized Trump’s suggestion that the issue of “making Jerusalem the capital of Israel” has prevented the advancement of the peace process.

“The obstacle in the path of the peace process is the occupation. It is not Jerusalem,” he said. 

In his speech before the rally Trump said, “Every time there were peace talks, they never got past Jerusalem becoming the capital [of Israel]…They could never get by.” 

The status of Jerusalem has long been one of the most sensitive and contentious issues in past peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. 

A view of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock, some of the holiest sites for for Jews and Muslims, is seen in Jerusalem’s Old City, December 6, 2017 (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Over the past several months, Trump administration officials have said they intend to present a plan to end the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. 

“No one will be full pleased with our proposal, but that’s the way it must be if real peace is to be achieved. Peace can only succeed if it is based on realities,” Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, Trump’s envoys responsible for the administration’s Middle East peace efforts; US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman; and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said in a joint statement on August 15.

Since Trump’s Jerusalem moves, Abbas has said a number of times that he would reject any American peace plan. However, he has also said at least once that he would be willing to listen to a US peace proposal if Trump recognizes East Jerusalem as the capital of “the State of Palestine” and backs a two-state solution. 

“We will not listen to anything that comes [from the Trump administration], regardless of what it is, unless if the two-state solution [is endorsed] and East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine is recognized,” Abbas said at a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee in April. “If that happens, we can talk about rest of the issues remaining on the table.”

Trump has said he has no preference between a two-state and one-state formula, but recently reportedly joked to Jordan’s King Abdullah that a single state of Israelis and Palestinians would end with “a prime minister named Mohammed.”

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