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Leader Of The Palestinian U.S. Delegation Reacts To Trump's Jerusalem Decision


OK, to better understand how Palestinians see President Trump's decision to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel, I spoke with Husam Zomlot. He's the Palestinian ambassador to the U.S. here in Washington and a key adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. I asked Ambassador Zomlot what he makes of today's news.

HUSAM ZOMLOT: It's very unfortunate. This is a black day for peace in the Middle East. The U.S. president has fully adopted the narrative not only of Israel actually but the very extreme elements within Israel up against everyone else - up against the world, up against the will for achieving a lasting and durable peace because in one announcement, this has damaged three main things.

The first is the role of mediator - the honest mediator of the U.S. that it has sustained for the last 25 years. It has damaged the basis of the two-state solution that has been endorsed by the U.S. and by the international consensus because the heart of the two-state solution is the status of Jerusalem. And the announcement today has taken only one side - one very narrow side - of the story.

And the third damage is the peace camp, if you may, who have kept their hope for a solution. And today it was a blow for the allies of America and a gift to the extremists, to the anarchists who want to see this conflict a religious one rather than a political and legal one that could be resolved.

KELLY: Will you keep talking to the U.S.? Will you continue this effort to find a solution, which the U.S. historically has led?

ZOMLOT: Well, that's a question for the Palestinian leadership, which will be convening very soon to discuss this very grave matter. And then...

KELLY: But you speak for the Palestinian leadership. What do you think?

ZOMLOT: Yes, but this has just happened, so I will wait until that meeting happens. I can say now that this announcement would be a self-inflicted disqualification of the U.S. for the role of mediator.

KELLY: You're speaking about the possibility that this may disrupt the peace process, but was there much of a peace process underway?

ZOMLOT: Yes, there was, and we signed agreements here in the White House. And the Oslo peace process did not reach the final destination. But at least hope was still there. Commitment was still there. Investment was still there. There was so...

KELLY: You felt that even with the Trump administration...

ZOMLOT: Yes, yes, yes, under - yes.

KELLY: ...Over these last recent months?

ZOMLOT: That's why - you know, the feeling I have personally - because I was the direct engagement from the Palestinian side with the Trump administration, on a regular basis, I felt it was a sudden stab in the back because we were going in the direction of the ultimate deal.

KELLY: If I may, though, does this come out of nowhere, out of the blue? President Trump said in his campaign he was going to do this. He never stopped saying that.

ZOMLOT: Every president before him has made that promise before elections and during the election campaign, and every president has signed the waiver not to move the embassy because every president realized that that would disqualify immediately the U.S. to be the mediator, and that would also deliver a blow to the prospects for peace in the Middle East.

KELLY: We have seen photos of protests in Gaza. There have been calls for Palestinians to begin three days of rage. What is the message from the Palestinian authority to Palestinians now? What is the appropriate response on the ground?

ZOMLOT: Well, our message is very clear - that we have strategically adopted non-violence - popular, peaceful protests like happened in Jerusalem only in July, if you remember, using the prayer mattress as a method of resistance. This is the strategic option for us. That's why we are reverting to international legitimacy. That's why we go to the U.N. to see...

KELLY: So you are calling on Palestinians if they want to protest peaceful, non-violent protests.

ZOMLOT: Yes, absolutely peaceful. Violence will play in the hands of the enemies of peace. We want it to be peaceful. This is going to delay things. But hopefully we will get to a situation whereby peace will prevail. In the city of peace - that is Jerusalem - we firmly believe that peace is much stronger than all these efforts. And we believe America will come back again. And we'll make sure that it will be a contributor to the cause of peace.

KELLY: Ambassador Zomlot, thank you.

ZOMLOT: Thank you very much for having me.

KELLY: Husam Zomlot - he's the Palestinian Ambassador to the United States and one of many voices we are hearing on the show today reacting to news that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.