As the United States officially opened its embassy to Jerusalem on Monday, fulfilling a pledge by President Trump in recognition of the holy city as Israel’s capital, a senior administration official told 7Dnews that this new reality was far from being seen as an obstacle to peace. In fact, the Trump Administration is now finalising an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
US officials said they will press on with their still-secret plan to secure what President Trump has called “the ultimate deal” for Middle East peace.
A senior White House official said, “the United States is in the late phase of finalising a peace plan that will be presented to both sides in the coming months.”
The plan has been in the works for at least the past year, according to officials, and will be presented "when the time is right." "We've been working hard and want to give the plan the best chance for success," a senior administration official told 7Dnews, "we want to get a lasting deal that is liveable for both parties."
Details of the plan are being kept tightly under wraps, but it is expected a public rollout of the peace plan will come within the next month or two, sources said.
“We're not going to preview elements of the plan because no one is going to like everything in it—so anything you reveal is going to make someone angry because it will not be in context," the administration official said, explaining that the Trump administration is being extremely sensitive to both sides.
It has become clear since the President announced the embassy move that the United States is standing firmly behind a new reality—that Jerusalem is, in fact, Israel's capital. But the administration officials say this support does not mean the United States is taking a firm position on negotiating terms known as final-status, which accounts for the borders of various territories that would be agreed upon by the Israelis and Palestinians.
"We are moving into a new phase”, said the official,” and they [the Palestinians] have a big opportunity with this new President, who's quite supportive of them."
It is not clear what impact the embassy move will have on reviving peace talks. In addition to breaking with decades of US policy by moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Trump administration has signalled that it does not view a two-state solution as essential. It is another move that has driven a wedge between America and its European allies, who still support an independent Palestinian state.
Experts say the embassy move in itself gives rise to two questions, one short-term and the other more long-term. The immediate issue is whether the move will spark especially violent demonstrations. The longer-term question is whether the US action will make it harder to restart talks on resolving the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict and whether there is any realistic prospect for such talks.
Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former State Department official and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said there was always a chance for demonstrations to turn sour, regardless of the embassy move. “I’m sure there are actors that would love to take advantage of the tension around this for their own purposes, but there’s plenty of tinder in the tinderbox already,” she said, noting the heightened Israeli-Iranian conflict and rising tensions elsewhere in the Arab world.
Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration, said the embassy move is something Israelis are happy with, but that it has not been a priority for them and has "always been much more an issue for American politics than it has for Israeli politics.” And though Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that the Trump administration’s stances have made the US ill-equipped to be a mediator in peace talks, it is not clear who would fill Washington’s historically central role in resolving disputes.
At the UN this year, Mr. Abbas called for an international panel — on which the US would be a member, not a leader — to restart negotiations.