Trump heads to Bethlehem for Abbas meeting

President Trump begins 2nd day of Israel visit with hour-long meeting with Palestinian Authority leader in Bethlehem.

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David Rosenberg,

Abbas and Trump
Abbas and Trump
Reuters

A day after his arrival in Israel and visit to religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, President Donald Trump prepared for a trip to the Palestinian Authority controlled city of Bethlehem, where he will meet with PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, their second tete-a-tete since Trump was elected last November.

The president’s meeting with Abbas, slated for 10:00 a.m. local time, will be brief and low-key – in stark contrast to his meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday.

While the president met with the Prime Minister at the King David Hotel in the Israeli capital, then dined with the Prime Minister and his wife at the premier’s residence, Trump will spend just one hour with Abbas.

The president also refused to meet with Abbas in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority’s declared capital, worrying that the optics of such a visit could be manipulated for use in Arab propaganda. Instead, Trump chose the city of Bethlehem, just a 20 minute drive from Jerusalem and a city with special significance to Christians.

Religious symbolism has been a feature in Trump’s first state trip overseas since taking office in January.

The trip was first announced by the President on May 4th at a Rose Garden ceremony for the signing of an executive order of religious liberty. At the ceremony, President Trump announced he would visit the custodian states of the holy cities associated with the three great Abrahamic faiths – Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican.

On Monday, Trump became the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall, and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem.

During their meeting, Abbas reportedly intends to offer more expansive land swaps with Israel for a final status agreement, Middle East Eye reported.

According to the report, Abbas will tell the president he is ready to expand the area in Judea and Samaria to be annexed by Israel under a final status agreement from the 1.9% offered in 2008 to 6.5%

"The Palestinian side will be presenting, during the meeting with Trump, a new vision which is quite detached from that of the majority of the Palestinian people. This vision is based on exchanging a lot of Palestinian lands,” a PA official said.

"Previous discussions about a Palestinian-Israeli settlement revolved around the exchange of only 1.9 percent of the lands, but now we are talking about more than triple that amount," the source added.