White House: Abbas Rhetoric 'Prevents Peace', Trump Still Committed to Reaching Israeli-Palestinian Deal

The White House also emphasized that the 'specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem' will be decided in direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, leaving open the possibility of dividing the city

Trump and Abbas during the United Nations General Assembly, September 20, 2017, in New York.
Evan Vucci/AP

WASHINGTON - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's recent comments on the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital is the kind of rhetoric "that has prevented peace for decades," a senior White House official said Wednesday.

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Abbas said on Wednesday the Palestinians will "go to the United Nations Security Council" over full UN membership after the U.S. decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. 

Abbas, who spoke at an extraordinary meeting of Islamic leaders in Istanbul on U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement, did not elaborate on how the Palestinians intended to become a full member state.

"The president remains as committed to peace as ever. This rhetoric, which has prevented peace for years, is not surprising as we anticipated reactions like this. We will remain hard at work putting together our plan, which will benefit the Israeli and Palestinian peoples," the White House official said.

"It is also important to ignore the distortions and instead focus on what the president actually said last week - the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem are subject to final status negotiations between the parties, the United States continues to take no position on any final status issues and the United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides," the official added.

The official noted that "we will continue to work on our plan for peace that we hope will offer the best outcome for both peoples and look forward to unveiling it when it is ready and the time is right."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Palestinians should recognize reality and work for peace and not for radicalization, noting that Israel preserves freedom of worship to all religions in Jerusalem. Netanyahu added that Abbas's statements "do not impress us," adding that in the end, "truth will win and many other countries will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move their embassies as well."

Speaking at the summit, the Palestinian leader called on world nations, in particular European countries, to officially recognize Palestine within the 1967 borders. He said Saudi Arabia's King Salman promised him personally that there will be no peace deal without a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Abbas also called on the worlds nations to reconsider their recognition of Israel after the U.S. announcement. The Palestinian leader said Trump's declaration was in violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions. "It crosses all the red lines," he said. Jerusalem is and always will be the capital of Palestine.

Abbas said it was unacceptable for the U.S. to have a role in the Middle East peace process because it was biased in favor of Israel. He added that the Palestinian Authority could withdraw its membership in international bodies over the decision.

"Trump gave Jerusalem to the Zionist movement as if it as an American city, but for the first time the entire world stood against him, even Britain, Canada and Australia," Abbas said.

Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, slammed Abbas for his remarks, saying: "The Palestinian leadership is doing everything it can to prevent any prospect for negotiations and is making a deliberate effort to foil any initiative that would lead to progress."

"The international community must not allow Abbas to again run away from the negotiating table through various excuses and must require the Palestinian leadership to recognize reality and halt the incitement that is threatening the stability of the region," Danon added.