US President Donald Trump assured his help if the Israelis and the Palestinians negotiate a peace agreement, during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
But despite expressing optimism in the face of the long odds and an increasingly fraught relationship between the two Middle East players, Trump also warned that “there can be no lasting peace unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice” and renounce violence and hate — a reference to the split between the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, and the militant Hamas group, which controls the Gaza Strip.
Trump also cast the United States in a more intermediary role. “I’m committed to working with Israel and the Palestinians to reach an agreement, but any agreement cannot be imposed by the United States or any other nation,” he said. “The Palestinians and Israelis must work together to reach an agreement that allows both peoples to live, worship and thrive and prosper in peace. And I will do whatever is necessary to facilitate the agreement, to mediate, to arbitrate anything they’d like to do, but I would to be a mediator or an arbitrator or a facilitator, and we will get this done.”
Abbas, for his part, nodded to the president’s background as a businessman, saying he respected Trump’s “great negotiating ability,” and called for a two-state solution.
“Our strategic option, our strategic choice, is to bring about peace based on the vision of the two-state, a Palestinian state, with its capital in East Jerusalem, that lives in peace and stability with the state of Israel, based on the borders of 1967,” Abbas said.
Abbas and a small entourage arrived outside the West Wing in a black limousine shortly before noon and were greeted by Trump. The Palestinian leader and his advisers are weighing efforts to restart peace negotiations with Israel with the aim of securing Palestinian borders, a capital and a state.
“It is a great honor to have the president with us,” Trump said after taking Abbas into the Oval Office. “We are going to have lunch; we are going to have discussions.”
Trump, who in February met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, has called a possible Palestinian-Israeli accord “the toughest deal in the world” but one he is determined to try to broker. Some analysts are skeptical, however, that Trump will succeed in an arena where his predecessors have fallen short.