The US State Department formally rejected a report from earlier this week that claimed that US President Donald Trump was considering withdrawing from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process due to a series of "tense" meetings between his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
In a press conference on Tuesday evening, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert called the report, originally from London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat, "...just false. The President has made Israeli-Palestinian peace one of his top priorities."
"We understand and recognize that this is not going to be a one-shot deal," Nauert said of the peace process. "It’s not going to be handled in one meeting or one trip. It is no surprise also that some meetings and conversations may be a little bit more difficult than others. Some will be more challenging. The President has said himself that it is not going to be an easy process, that both sides – the Israelis and the Palestinians – will have to give a bit in order to be able to get to a peaceful arrangement, which we hope to see. But we are not pulling out in any way, shape, or form of this as being one of our priorities."
Nauert also commented on statements made earlier by US envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
In a speech to the House Subcommittee on Appropriations for State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs in Washington DC on Tuesday, Haley said, "The US Mission [to the UN] now refuses to tolerate one of the UN's most disreputable and dangerous habits: obsessive bashing of Israel. We forced the withdrawal of a false and biased report. And we've steered the Security Council's monthly debate on the Middle East away from unfairly targeting Israel and toward the true threats of the region such as Iran and Hamas."
Nauert spoke in general support of Haley, though refrained from delving deeper. "She believes that the United Nations... needs to be reformed, that for far too long the United Nations has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel," said Nauert. "I know that’s a concern of hers. She’s talked about that a lot. She’s talked about reforming the United Nations."
One reporter asked about the US's treatment of the Palestinian Authority in the UN, and its policy to limit the PA's standing while it is not an official state actor. "If this is the policy," the reporter asked. "Does it also apply to the Vatican? Because the Palestinians right now have the same status at the UN as the Vatican does. So, if you're going to be consistent about this, then you would oppose any representative of the Holy See taking a UN Position..."
"Matt," Nauert responded. "I’m just not going to get into – again, to characterizing that right now. I understand your question. I understand your concerns."