Trump to seek Abbas commitment to peace

Sources say Trump will ask PA chairman to cooperate with his Middle East peace initiative.

Elad Benari,

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas

U.S. President Donald Trump will ask Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday to cooperate with the initiative he plans to launch in the coming months to revive the Middle East peace process, Haaretz reported on Tuesday, citing a senior White House official.

“The president will seek President Abbas’ commitment to work with us as we try to move peace efforts forward,” the official, who was not named, said.

Abbas arrived Tuesday in Washington and will remain for three days. During their meeting Wednesday, Trump and Abbas are expected to make statements to the media, according to Haaretz.

Abbas is also expected to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, senators, congressmen and representatives of Jewish organizations.

Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said on Monday that Abbas will emphasize to Trump that a just solution to the conflict should be based on the two-state solution and on the Arab peace initiative.

Abu Rudeineh added that there is a real opportunity to establish peace and that the international community should not miss it.

Before leaving for Washington, Abbas held coordination meetings with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Cairo and Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman.

The meeting between Abbas and Trump will be their first since Trump took office, but they did hold a telephone conversation last month.

Following that conversation, Abbas praised Trump and said he brings “hope” for peace, even though PA officials had previously criticized Trump for his failure to stop Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria.

According to the White House official who spoke to Haaretz, advancing the Middle East peace process and achieving a peace agreement that would end the Israeli-PA conflict is a top priority for Trump. According to the official, it’s precisely for this reason that Trump has given the issue to two people especially close to him – his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his envoy for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt.

“The president personally believes that peace is possible, and that the time has come to make that deal,” the official told the newspaper. “The president has noted that such a deal would not only give Israelis and Palestinians the peace and security they deserve, but that it would also reverberate positively throughout the region and the world.”

The official added that Trump was determined to achieve real progress, but this would require the resumption of direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

“Any peace settlement ultimately has to be the product of direct negotiations between the parties, and both sides must agree,” the official told Haaretz. “We can help and support progress towards a peace deal – and the president is determined to do so – but we can’t impose a solution on the Israelis and Palestinians. Nor can one side impose an agreement on the other.”

Israel-PA peace talks have been frozen since 2014, when an initiative by then-Secretary of State John Kerry failed after the PA unilaterally applied to join international institutions.

Since that time, Abbas has repeatedly rejected calls by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to sit down for direct negotiations, choosing instead to impose preconditions on such talks.