After a weekend of separate sit-downs between the prime minister of Israel and both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in New York, the Palestinian leadership condemned Trump for statements that broke away from the U.S.’s official position on Jerusalem.
Trump called Jerusalem “the eternal capital of the Jewish People for over 3000 years,” adding, “[U]nder a Trump administration, [the U.S.] will finally accept the long-standing Congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel,” according to a statement from the Trump campaign.
Trump met with Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday for 90 minutes in his Trump Towers residence. His Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner sat in. Also discussed was “Israel’s successful experience with a security fence that helped secure its borders”–an obvious nod to Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico. Trump further expressed support to Netanyahu’s preconditions for negotiations with the Palestinians– that Palestinians accept “Israel as a Jewish State,” according to a readout from the Trump camp.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat lambasted Trump today for the Jerusalem remarks. The U.S.’s official position is that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital, and the eastern half of Jerusalem is occupied. Trump, Erekat said, aims to change that.
“Mr. Trump’s statement shows disregard for international law, longstanding U.S. foreign policy regarding the status of Jerusalem, including the Occupation and illegal annexation of Occupied East Jerusalem, as well as hundreds of millions of Arabs, including Palestinians Christians and Muslims,” Erekat said.
Erekat did not comment on Clinton’s shorter 50-minute meeting with Netanyahu that same afternoon. In that discussion the two spoke of “advancing peace and stability in the Middle East as well as the potential for economic growth through technological innovation,” said a statement from Netanyahu’s office.
In truth, both Trump and Clinton’s meetings with Netanyahu during the height of campaign season are not usual for American races, particularly of candidates with the GOP. In 2012 former Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney flew to Israel for a fundraiser abroad where he shared multiple meals with the Netanyahu’s.
During Romney’s public address in Jerusalem before a hand-picked audience–a veritable who’s who of Israel’s hawks with no members of the center, left or Arab political factions present–he too contradicted the State Department’s definition of East Jerusalem as occupied.
Trump is in the company of many Republican hopefuls to the office of the presidency, but no actual Republican presidents, who have called for moving Israel’s capital to Jerusalem. In particular, Mike Huckabee has visited Israel and the settlements in the West Bank on numerous occasions. He even leads tour groups to the holy land.
Until this year the Democratic Party, by contrast, historically toed the State Department line on East Jerusalem as occupied. Although this year’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) announced a different stance.
“While Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths,” the DNC platform said, adding a note of opposition to “any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.”
Clinton has sought daylight between herself and Trump on Jerusalem in public addresses through the campaigns, yet the change in the DNC’s view of Jerusalem, which mirrors that of Trump, was said to be the result of her bidding.