Palestinians Say U.S. Position on Western Wall Remaining in Israeli Hands Is Unacceptable

'This proves once again that the current U.S. administration is completely out of the peace process,' spokesperson for Abbas says

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he talks during the closing news conference following the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's Extraordinary Summit in Istanbul, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017
AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

The Palestinians rejected Saturday the position of the Trump administration that the Western Wall will probably remain part of Israel in a future peace deal.

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"The Palestinians will not accept any changes to the 1967 border of East Jerusalem," said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesperson for Palestinian President Abbas and a top official in the Palestinian government. 

"This American position proves once again that the current U.S. administration is completely out of the peace process," he said, adding that it would "consolidate the occupation."

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Ahead of Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Israel next week, a senior Trump administration official said on Friday that the administration cannot envision a situation in which the Western Wall isn't a part of Israel in a future peace agreement.

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The official said in a press briefing on Pence's visit that while the final boundaries of sovereignty in Jerusalem should be decided in direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, "We note that we cannot imagine Israel would sign a peace agreement that didn’t include the Western Wall."

Pence is expected to land in Israel Wednesday evening and visit the Western Wall that night.

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The official said that Pence will be visiting the the holy site officially "as the vice president of the United States," but earlier, Israeli and American officials told Haaretz that Pence's visit will be no different from previous such visits by senior U.S. figures: It will be private, without Israeli officials present and outside the diplomatic protocol. Pence will be accompanied by his family and the Western Wall rabbi. As of now, Israel hasn't received instructions to the contrary. The assumption in Jerusalem and Washington on Friday night was that senior Israeli officials will not accompany Pence during his visit, similarly to Trump's visit there in May.

On Thursday, Pence is slated to have a meeting with Netanyahu, deliver formal remarks to the Knesset and dine at the Prime Minister's Residence. Friday's schedule includes a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem. He will then travel to Egypt where he will meet Egyptian President Sissi.

Palestinian officials said they will not receive Pence during his visit to the region, in protest against Trump's historic announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. 

Trump's special envoy Jason Greenblatt will also travel to Israel early next week "for meetings related to our peace effort," a senior White House official has said.