President Donald Trump‘s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was “ill-advised” and has probably “significantly” set back the peace process , former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told CNBC Tuesday.
“I think it was ill advised,” Robert Gates told CNBC, “I’m not quite sure if there’s a strategy behind it or whether it’s the fulfilment of a campaign promise that was made.”
Gates was secretary of defense in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations and is a former CIA director.
Gates said he had previously hoped that there was some progress being made in terms of dialogue between the U.S., Israel and Palestine but that Trump’s move had likely damaged the peace process.
“I had the sense that people were starting to think that maybe something actually would be possible in terms of moving forwards on (the peace process) something that multiple presidents have failed to achieve.”
“But unfortunately I think this decision probably significantly sets back that effort in major ways,” he said.
Gates’ comments come amid widespread protests in the Arab world following Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and his intention to move the U.S. embassy there.
The move immediately attracted international condemnation with critics saying it would bring more conflict to the region. As expected, there have been protests by Palestinians since the move and Middle Eastern leaders have demanded that Trump rescind the recognition.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a visit to European Union headquarters on Monday, looking for a similar endorsement but the EU said it would not support Trump’s move.
Jerusalem has special religious and cultural significance for Jews, Muslims and Christians and its territorial status is a key factor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump’s move was widely seen as the U.S. siding with Israel and breaking with its former role of an honest broker in a fragile peace process in the region.
Speaking to CNBC on the sidelines of the Arab Strategy Forum in Dubai, Gates said Trump’s decision “doesn’t fit with the strategy of … working with our Arab allies to try to move the peace process.”
Trump's 'ill-advised' move over Jerusalem has set back peace process, former secretary of defense says