Trump Mideast envoy: Moving embassy to Jerusalem ‘necessary condition’ for peace

Jason Greenblatt says relocation is ‘not a departure’ from US commitment to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; top Palestinian official: It’s a hostile, illegal act

US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt attends a press conference regarding the water agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, on July 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90/File)
US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt attends a press conference regarding the water agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, on July 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90/File)

Hours before the official ceremony relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem, US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace negotiator said Monday that the move is a “necessary condition” to a lasting peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

In an apparent attempt to deflect allegations that the move will end the already moribund peace process, Jason Greenblatt wrote on Twitter that “the long-overdue step of moving our Embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal.”

In a series of tweets, Greenblatt said that the embassy move should not change Palestinian-US relations.

“As the President stated in December, recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is simply a recognition of reality. Israel is a sovereign nation, and like every other sovereign nation, it has the right to determine its own capital,” Greenblatt wrote.

“Thank you POTUS for your bold, courageous and historic decision!” he concluded.

An American flag flowerbed planted next to the compound of the US consulate in Jerusalem, which will host the new US embassy on May 13, 2018, AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat blasted the Trump administration ahead of the embassy move, saying Trump had violated a promise to hold off on moving the embassy to give peace talks a chance and that his administration was “based on lies.”

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Erekat said the Trump administration has “become part of the problem, not part of the solution.” He indicated that Trump’s Mideast team was unqualified, saying “the world needs real leaders, and those [White House officials] are real estate dealers, not leaders.”

He also called the embassy move a “hostile act against international law.”

Delighting the Israeli government, but angering Palestinians who claim the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future Palestinian state, Trump announced on December 6, 2017, that he was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would move the US embassy to the city from Tel Aviv.

US President Donald Trump holds up a signed memorandum recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as US Vice President Mike Pence looks on, at the White House, on December 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

On Monday afternoon, the move was set to take place with a celebratory ceremony in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, amid the threat of Palestinian unrest both in the capital and in the West Bank and Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Sunday with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser in his office, in Jerusalem, and was reportedly briefed on the US reluctance to present its peace plan, Channel 10 reported.

US President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, center right, and Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, center left, at a welcome ceremony for the US Embassy at the Foreign Ministry, ahead of the official opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, May 13, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

According to Channel 10, the American team is hesitant to present its plan — which Trump has called “the deal of the century” — knowing that the Palestinians will likely reject it outright.

The two were joined by Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, Friedman and Greenblatt.

Though there have been many reported leaks of the Trump administration’s peace plan, as yet no details have been officially released and there has been no date for when it will be presented.

Nevertheless, the Palestinians have already said they will reject it.

“Seventy years ago, the United States, under President Harry S Truman, became the first nation to recognize the State of Israel,” the US State Department said in a statement Saturday.

A poster praising US President Donald Trump covers an outside section of the “Diplomat Hotel”, adjacent to the US consulate in Jerusalem which will host the new US Embassy, on May 11, 2018.

“Moving our embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal; rather it is a necessary condition for it. We are not taking a position on final status issues, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, nor on the resolution of contested borders.”

Citing Trump’s December 6 speech, the statement said that “the historic opening of our embassy recognizes the reality that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the seat of its government.”

The US Consulate General on Jerusalem’s Agron Street will continue to operate as an “independent mission with an unchanged mandate responsible for US relations with the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority,” the statement went on.

Raphael Ahren, AP contributed to this report.

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