Although the Palestinians and Arab states may see US President Donald Trump’s announcement of the Embassy move as an affront, it should instead be viewed as an opportunity to renew peace talks, argued Israeli Deputy Minister Michael Oren on Thursday.
“This is a momentous day for the people in the State of Israel. We have waited for 2,000 years as a people for the day we’d have an independent Jewish state with a capital recognized by strongest democracy and military power, the US,” said Oren, speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem.
So too, he maintained, should it be a momentous day for the Palestinians, who are being given a reason to renew peace talks with the Israelis.
“If I were [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, I would seize this opportunity,” he said.
“Trump just made a gesture to Israel, but instead of burning his picture, Abbas could say to Trump, “Ok, now what are you going to do for us?’”
He referred to furious Palestinians who, in response to Trump’s announcement on Wednesday night, burned photos and effigies of the president in protest.
Oren stated, “Here we have a mediator who stands by his word, makes a public pledge and fulfills it, and who has now gained credibility and leverage over both sides in negotiations.”
He further maintained that the Palestinians should take advantage of Trump’s proven commitment to following through with promises, unlike former President Barack Obama, who, though pro-Palestinian, was not well received by the Palestinians because he remained uncommitted to his word.
Oren was at the latest negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis eight years ago, where he said the Palestinians “left the table after just six hours of negotiation.”
“When a party leaves the negotiation table, there’s a price for that,” he explained. “The Palestinians have left the table repeatedly. And [the announcement for the embassy move] comes in the context for leaving the table, justifiably so.”
In negotiations, the Israeli side will also be asked to commit to difficult things, warned Oren, who recommended that Israel remains “prudent about where we build” in the coming months in order to show Trump that “we are serious about renewing the peace process,” showing restraint by only building in areas that will always be part of the State of Israel in a final accord.
There is no sign as of yet that the Palestinians or Arab states see Trump’s declaration as an opportunity or are serious about renewing the peace process. In fact, Palestinian leadership has called for a day of rage in reaction to the announcement, and rioting is already underway in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, and East Jerusalem.
“It is cause for some optimism that they haven’t called for a third intifada or war,” said Oren, who said he sees “many indications that the peace process may be renewed.”
“Israel is celebrating left, right, up and down,” said Oren, who, though hopeful, said he had low expectations that others would “share in our joy.”