US plans Middle East peace push after ‘cooling off’ over Jerusalem

WASHINGTON: The White House is to renew efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, officials said Friday, despite outrage over President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Senior administration officials said efforts to push the process forward will be rekindled as soon as next week, in the hope that anger at Trump’s move will subside.
Trump on Dec, 6 announced a break with decades of American policy, effectively ignoring Palestinian claims on the Holy City.
The decision has sparked almost universal diplomatic condemnation and deadly protests in the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — 82 years old and facing the prospect of entering the history books as the leader who “lost Jerusalem” — took the dramatic move of canceling a planned meeting with Vice President Mike Pence.
The vice president is due to arrive in Jerusalem on Wednesday, although he is not slated to meet Palestinian leaders.
“We understand that the Palestinians may need a bit of a cooling off period, that’s fine,” said one senior administration official.
The White House hopes that Pence’s visit can begin to draw a line under the issue.
“Obviously the last couple of weeks in the region have been a reaction to the Jerusalem decision,” said a second senior administration official. “We’ve seen a lot of the emotion that has been displayed on that.”
“This trip is kind of part of the ending of that chapter and the beginning of the next chapter… We still continue to be focused on a peace process and how we ultimately bring that situation to a conclusion.”
The vice president will be joined in Israel by Trump’s chief peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt, who has not met his Palestinian interlocutors since Dec. 6.
“We will be ready when the Palestinians are ready to reengage,” said the first official.
But hopes for a quick resumption of peace talks may prove optimistic. On Friday alone, four Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded in violence with Israeli forces across the Palestinian territories.
Trump’s move has called into question whether the US can serve as a fair arbiter, a role it has played for much of the last half century.
Trump came to office claiming he could make “the ultimate deal,” but that effort now risks being derailed by his own actions.
“We aren’t setting any kind of deadlines or timeframes. There’s one thing I’m sure of in this job, is that any deadline we set, we will blow past,” said a US official.

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