MKs ‘Concerned,’ Palestinians Skeptical Over Trump ‘Prize’ Remarks

YERUSHALAYIM -
President Donald Trump places a note in the stones of the Kosel, during his visit to Israel in May 2017. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

While Israeli MKs either expressed concern – or celebrated, depending on their political affiliation – comments by President Donald Trump overnight Tuesday that it was the “Palestinian’s turn” to “get something good” in the deal to resolve the Middle East dispute, the Palestinians themselves were less impressed. Calling the comments by Trump “worthless,” Ahmad Tamimi, a top Palestinian Authority figure, said Wednesday he did not expect Israel to pay “a heavy price” for the move of the U.S. embassy to Yerushalayim.

“The declarations by President Trump are worthless,” said Tamimi. “The Americans are trying to promote their ‘deal of the century’ without Yerushalayim as an issue on the table. But they are fooling themselves. We don’t know what negotiations Trump is talking about, we are not aware of any. But even if, as he said, they have taken Yerushalayim off the table, it is not out of our hearts, and we will not give it up.”

At a rally Tuesday night, Trump said that “if there’s ever going to be peace — remember I said it — with the Palestinians it was a good thing to have done because we took it off the table because every time there were peace talks, they never got past Jerusalem becoming their capital, so I said let’s take it off the table.” Trump did not specify what he meant, but presumably it will be presented both to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the coming weeks, as the U.S. introduces the “deal of the century” that American envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt have been working on in recent weeks.

With that issue out of the way, the negotiations can progress, and the Palestinians “they’ll get something very good because it’s their turn next. Let’s see what happens.” That “something very good” will presumably be revealed in the coming weeks – perhaps at the U.N. General Assembly session in September, Arab media said Wednesday.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said Wednesday that there was “room for concern” over Trump’s comments. “Not that we are fearful, but concern is in place. The President said in his comments ‘if there is ever going to be peace.’ I suggest that we wait first for that ‘if ever’ before making any concessions,” he told Army Radio Wednesday.

MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) said in a social media post that Israel “respects President Trump and is grateful for his decision to move the embassy to Yerushalayim, the capital of the Jewish nation. This was the right decision for numerous reasons – religious, historical, security, and diplomatic. All of the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people, and it shall remain in our possession forever, for the same reason. The Arabs who live here are better off under our rule than under the rule of Arab governments. We will continue to bring our brethren here and to build throughout our land.”

Zionist Camp MK Eitan Cabel, on the other hand, said that “the right can try to deny it all they want, but they know that Trump is going to demand concessions from Israel for his ‘deal of the century.’ It is time for the right to give up its mistaken notion that if they just postpone and delay, the political issues will fix themselves. Israel should itself initiate steps that will save the two-state solution, including a building freeze in the isolated settlements, compensation for settlers who choose to leave, imposing Israeli law on the large settlement blocs, and giving Israeli citizenship to Palestinians who wish to remain in Israeli areas.”

The Palestinians have declared that no talks will take place as long as the American Embassy remains in Yerushalayim. In a speech last week, PA chief Mahmoud Abbas reiterated that the PA would not accept U.S. assistance on negotiations in any way, until the American Embassy was moved out of Yerusahalayim. Kushner has said in the past that if Abbas refuses to cooperate, the U.S. would reveal the plan and push it forward without his cooperation. Speaking in June, Kushner said that “if President Abbas is willing to come back to the table, we are ready to engage; if he is not, we will likely air the plan publicly. However, I do question how much President Abbas has the ability to, or is willing to, lean into finishing a deal. He has his talking points which have not changed in the last 25 years.”