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 Defense Secretary Robert Gates told CNBC on Tuesday.
"I think it was ill advised," Gates said. "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 Pentagon chief in the second Bush and Obama administrations and is a former CIA director.
Gates said he had hoped some progress was being made in the dialogue between the U.S., Israel and Palestinians 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 forward 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 protests in the Muslim world following Trump's announcement that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital and plans 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 at 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."
He also said North Korea's ability to fire a nuclear warhead at the U.S. will become an accepted reality in the coming year.