President Trump on Thursday declared Jerusalem “off the table” for purposes of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but his administration maintains otherwise.
“We have done nothing to prejudge the final borders of Jerusalem,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said during a Thursday meeting of the Security Council.
Haley emphasized that point to defend Trump from international complaints that he had scuttled the possibility of peace talks by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. U.S. officials have maintained, since the December announcement, that Trump’s decision wouldn’t preclude the formation of a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem. But her latest defense of U.S. policy came on the same day that Trump took a blunter tone.
“We took Jerusalem off the table, so we don’t have to talk about it anymore,” Trump said in Davos, Switzerland, before a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “So when people said, ‘Oh, I set it back’ — I didn't set it back, I helped it. Because by taking it off the table, that was the toughest issue. And Israel will pay for that. Look, Israel — something is going to happen. They'll do something that's going to be a very good thing. But they want to make peace, and I hope the Palestinians want to make peace. And if they do, everybody is going to be very happy in the end.”
That comment played into Palestinian charges that Trump wants to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem in a final deal.
“If we lose Jerusalem, what do you want to do? Have a state with Abu Dis as its capital?” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said, referring to an East Jerusalem suburb, in mid-January.
That speech provided the basis for an extended rebuke from Haley, who noted that Abbas had insulted Trump and described the state of Israel as the product of a European plan to dispossess Palestinians. “A speech that indulges in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories is not the speech of a person with the courage and the will to seek peace,” Haley said.