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May 21, 2017 12:54 pm

White House Official Says ‘Fundamental Change’ in Palestinian Authority Needed to Advance Peace Process

avatar by Ben Cohen

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump during a joint press conference at the White House. Photo: Avi Ohayon / GPO via Netanyahu’s Facebook page.

A senior White House official has said that US President Donald Trump’s bid for a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) can “happen only after certain things change” in terms of the Palestinian leadership’s approach to incitement and terrorism.

Trump arrives in Israel tomorrow on an eagerly-anticipated two-day visit that has been clouded by controversy over the last week concerning his administration’s position on Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. On Tuesday, Rabbi Marvin Hier – the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles who participated in Trump’s inauguration – told The Algemeiner that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster had committed an “unnecessary blunder” by refusing to say whether he regarded the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City as Israeli territory.

But Sebastian Gorka, a deputy adviser to Trump, indicated in an interview with Fox News that the president had registered Israel’s broader anxieties over dealing with the PA – particularly over its payments to terrorists and their families, described by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “the first test of peace” in a recent interview.  “Confront terrorism, stop rewarding terrorism, stop paying it terrorists,” Netanyahu said.

“There has to be a fundamental change if we are going to have peace in a deal brokered by this administration,” Gorka said. “It’s not going to be another piece of paper, it’s not going be a nice summit somewhere. If this happens it’s going to happen for real, because we have the world’s best dealmaker, but it has to happen only after certain things change with regard…to terrorism, payment of terrorist families, and other key issues.”

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Itamar Marcus  – Director of the Israeli monitoring organization Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which tracks terror incitement – said he was encouraged by Gorka’s comment.

“I’m very pleased that the United States understands the severity of the Palestinian Authority paying salaries to terrorists and the need for fundamental changes by the PA,” Marcus said.

“President Trump should demand of the PA that before Israel even sits down and talks to them, they should change the names of the 28 schools named after terrorists and the three schools named after Nazi collaborators,” Marcus said. He added that the PA should drop its practice of naming sporting events in honor of Palestinian terrorists “from this point forward.”

“If the PA can live up to these conditions it may be the beginning of a peace process,” Marcus said.

In his interview, Gorka also hinted that Trump’s presidency had brought about closer ties between Israel and the Sunni Muslim Arab states.

“We can’t talk about it here openly, but the relation between Israel and key Arab Muslim nations of the region has changed dramatically in the last 16 weeks. They know that with American leadership we can secure that region,” Gorka said.

In a policy briefing published to coincide with Trump’s visit, Alan Baker – Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a former Israeli peace negotiator – expressed pessimism that Israel could make progress with the PA and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, who meets with Trump in Bethlehem on Tuesday.

Baker said that “Abbas and the Palestinian leadership have consistently refused to resume negotiations, nor to meet or to enter into any dialogue with Israel’s leaders. They insist on the ‘right of return,’ which is tantamount to the destruction of Israel.”

“The Palestinian leadership initiates and openly supports boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) aimed at the delegitimization of Israel in international and regional organizations, international tribunals, and the UN and its specialized agencies,” Baker pointed out.

Watch video of Gorka’s remarks below (3:36):

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