US President Donald Trump’s comments in West Virginia on Tuesday that Israel would have to pay a high price in negotiations with the Palestinians for the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem does not represent a change of American policy, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said Wednesday.
Bolton, speaking at a news conference at the King David Hotel, said that Trump is a “deal maker,” and that he and anyone else would expect the Palestinians to say after the embassy move, “So, we didn’t get that one, we’ll get something else.”
The “fundamental point,” Bolton said, “is that ultimately this is something the parties are going to have to agree on. One of the most cogent things I’ve ever heard about the Middle East was something that Secretary of State Jim Baker said during the George H. W. Bush administration: ‘We can’t want peace more than the parties themselves.’”
The parties, Bolton said, will need to “talk about it between themselves and see what, if anything, the price of that [the Jerusalem move] was.”
Bolton added that the embassy move “in and of itself brings reality to a negotiation that honestly – for decades – has been conducted in an air of unreality.”
On Tuesday evening during a campaign rally in Charleston, Trump – to loud cheering – mentioned his recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the move of the embassy as one of his achievements. He said this was “a good thing to have done,” because it took Jerusalem off the table in future peace talks.
“And you know what? In the negotiation, Israel will have to pay a higher price because they won a very big thing – but I took it off the table,” Trump said. “They could never get past the fact of Jerusalem becoming the capital. Now it’s off the table – there’s nothing to negotiate. But they [the Palestinians] will get something very good ‘cause it’s their turn next. Let’s see what happens.”
The president has made similar comments before. “We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table,” Trump wrote on Twitter in January, “but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more.”
Bolton, on the last of three days of intensive talks here, said that it was a “sad outcome” for the Palestinian people that “all they got now is a choice between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.”
If Hamas cared more about the people of Gaza than their own political priorities, “we wouldn’t have a lot of these troubles” that are plaguing the area, he said.
“There are a lot of prospects, really, to find ways here to resolve some of these problems and give the people of Palestine – who have been used as agents by radical leaders over the years for their own political purposes – to give them and their families a chance for a decent life going forward,” he added.
Bolton said that is the objective of the long-awaited US peace plan that Trump is overseeing, and that he hopes this will be evident when the US rolls out the plan. He gave no indication, however, of when that might be.•
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