The Trump administration “cannot envision a scenario” under which the Western Wall, “would not be part of Israel” in a future peace agreement with the Palestinians, a senior official said on Friday.The official underscored the point in a briefing with reporters in advance of this week’s visit to Israel by US Vice President Mike Pence.The trip has been hampered by a crisis with a Palestinian Authority already livid over US President Donald Trump’s recognition earlier this month of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.“We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel,” the official said.
“But as the president said, the specific boundaries of sovereignty of Israel are going to be part of the final-status agreement.”In pronouncing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on December 6, Trump said that his administration made no judgment on who will control which parts of the city in a final agreement. Israel insists that all of Jerusalem remain its undivided and eternal capital, while the Palestinians demand a state of their own with its capital in the city’s eastern districts.Trump was the first US president to visit the Wall in an official capacity during his May trip to Israel. The administration official said that, similarly, Pence would visit the Western Wall in his role as vice president.The PA denounced the latest US statement about the Western Wall. The Palestinians will not accept any changes to the pre- 1967 lines in east Jerusalem, Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said according to Wafa, the PA news agency.“This American position proves once again that the current US administration is completely out of the peace process,” he said.“Continuing with this American policy – whether it has to do with recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy to the city or taking a unilateral decision on final-status issues – is in violation of international law and consolidates the occupation. This is not acceptable to us and we denounce it,” Abu Rudeineh said.Transportation Minister Israel Katz responded to Abbas on Twitter: “Abu Mazen says no! To USA clarification that the Western Wall would be within our borders in any agreement. Once again, truth is exposed, such as Arafat vs. Barak & Abu Mazen vs.Olmert – ZERO willingness to compromise, a lack of recognition of Jewish right to a state.”In advance of Pence’s arrival, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, will arrive in Israel for meetings “related to the administration’s peace effort.”It will be his first trip to the region since the Jerusalem declaration. The PA has refused to meet with Pence, and a senior administration official did not say whether Greenblatt expects to visit the West Bank. “The president remains as committed to peace as ever,” the official said. “As we have said since the Jerusalem announcement, we anticipated reactions like the ones going on in the region, but are going to remain hard at work on our peace plan.”To that end, the official continued, Greenblatt “will be traveling to Israel early in the week for meetings related to our peace effort.” In addition, Greenblatt will meet with Fernando Gentilini, the European Union representative on the Middle East Quartet.Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-inlaw and senior adviser tasked with leading the peace initiative, have been working on a detailed US-led plan to reboot Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for nearly a year.Sources say they plan on forging ahead with that plan – currently hundreds of pages long, full of new proposals addressing specific sticking points in the conflict – despite Palestinian proclamations that the US has discredited itself with its moves on Jerusalem.Egypt is circulating a draft proposal to the UN Security Council condemning the Jerusalem declaration – a move that will likely be vetoed by the US. Fourteen nations in the 15-member body have already spoken out against Trump’s Jerusalem plan. The EU has also condemned it.EU countries have asked the White House to publish details of its plan. Britain and Saudi Arabia have both called on the US peace team to proceed with its plan with haste.Greenblatt will stay in Israel through Pence’s visit, delayed until later this week due to a highly anticipated Senate vote on tax reform.Katz tweeted that Israel plans to warmly welcome Pence as a “friend of the Jewish people and a great supporter of the State of Israel.”Reuters contributed to this report.
In presidential first, Trump prays at Jerusalem"s Western Wall (credit: REUTERS)