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25 Jan, 2018 22:15

If Jerusalem is off table then US has no seat at it – Palestinian official fires back at Trump

If Jerusalem is off table then US has no seat at it – Palestinian official fires back at Trump

Peace with Israel is not possible if the status of Jerusalem is off the agenda, a top Palestinian official has said, rejecting Donald Trump’s claim that the US has removed the controversial issue from the negotiation table.

“Jerusalem is not off the negotiations table, rather the US is outside the international consensus,” said Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Secretary Saeb Erekat in a statement.

“Those who say that Jerusalem is off the table are saying that peace is off the table,” Erekat said. “The holy city is in the hearts of each and every Palestinian, Arab, Christian and Muslim, and there will be no peace without East Jerusalem being the sovereign capital of the State of Palestine.”

Earlier on Thursday, Trump met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos. By recognizing Jerusalem, Trump said the US has removed the issue from the agenda of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. “We took Jerusalem off the table, so we don’t have to talk about it anymore,” he told Netanyahu, adding that “you won one point, and you’ll give up some other points later on in the negotiation.” However, the US leader turned down a question from an Israeli journalist, who wanted to know whether the phrase “off the table” meant that no part of Jerusalem would become the capital of a sovereign Palestinian state in the future.

In order to promote the resumption of the currently stalled peace talks, Trump warned that US financial aid “is not going to them [the Palestinians] unless they sit down and negotiate peace.” He said the Americans have been providing Palestine with “hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support, tremendous numbers, numbers that nobody understands.” The US leader was upset that Palestinian officials “disrespected” America by refusing to talk to Vice-President, Mike Pence earlier this week. During his visit to the region, Pence promised the Israelis that the US would move its embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of 2019.

Erekat said the threats were futile as “Trump could buy many things with his money, but he won’t be able to buy the dignity of our nation.” The American leader already mulled cutting aid in a tweet in early January after Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas said Washington can’t be viewed as an honest broker in the peace negotiations anymore due to the Jerusalem move.

READ MORE: 'No substitute for US in Israeli-Palestinian peace process' – Netanyahu

The recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital by the US led to weeks of violent clashes in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, which resulted in several fatalities and over 1,000 injured among Palestinians. Thousands took to the streets to protest and burn US flags in Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Indonesia and elsewhere across the Muslim world. In response to Trump’s decision, many Muslim countries also recognized East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.

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