(JTA) – On Aug. 21, addressing supporters at a rally in West Virginia, Trump praised himself for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, saying the decision would help facilitate a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians because it took the issue of Jerusalem “off the table,” adding that “in the [peace] negotiation Israel will have to pay a higher price because they won a very big thing.” Amid the concerns in Jerusalem over the remarks, National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters on Aug. 22, that “I would expect that the Palestinians would say ‘OK, great, so we didn’t get that one and now we want something else. And we’ll see how it goes.’” However, he added that “the fundamental point is that ultimately this is something that the parties are going to have to agree on.”
Responding to Trump, Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel told Army Radio that there “is cause for concern regarding Trump.” Politicians on the left were more welcoming of Trump’s remarks. Knesset member Amir Peretz, a former defense minister, was quoted by The Jerusalem Post as saying, “No one can claim that this is a hostile president with demands that are not legitimate.” According to Ynet, the PLO harshly denounced Trump’s remarks, as did Hamas.
The Trump administration has yet to reveal its Middle East peace plan, which is being developed by Jared Kushner, his senior adviser; Jason Greenblatt, a special representative for international negotiations; David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel; and Nikki Haley, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations. The team released a joint statement last week saying that “no one will be fully pleased with our proposal, but that’s the way it must be if real peace is to be achieved. Peace can only succeed if it is based on realities.”
It is possible that Trump’s latest statement was intended to bring the Palestinians to the table following Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ statement that he would not consider the Americans’ proposals.
This isn’t the first time Trump has made such comments. Earlier this year, he suggested that if the Palestinians return to talks, his decision on Jerusalem would mean that it’s now Israel’s turn to give up something to keep the Palestinians in. “You win one point,” Trump said to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, “and you’ll give up some points later on in the negotiation, if it ever takes place.” Later, Trump said, “Israel will pay for that,” referring to Jerusalem.