United States President Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to work on brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians as he hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House.
In their first direct meeting, Trump pressed Palestinian leaders to “speak in a unified voice against incitement” to violence against Israelis but he stopped short of explicitly recommitting his administration to a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict.
As an “intermediary”, “referee,” “facilitator,” “lead to peace”, Trump stressed that repeated failures in the past did not necessarily mean that the task was impossible.
“We will get this done,” Trump told Abbas during a joint appearance at the White House, saying he was prepared to act as a mediator, facilitator or arbitrator between the two sides.
Abbas quickly reasserted the goal of a Palestinian state as vital to any rejuvenated peace process, reiterating that it must have its capital in Jerusalem with borders based on pre-1967 lines. Trump faced deep skepticism at home and abroad over his chances for a breakthrough with Abbas, not least because the new US administration has yet to articulate a cohesive strategy for restarting the moribund peace process.
Abbas’ White House talks follow a mid-February visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who moved quickly to reset ties after a frequently combative relationship with the Republican president’s predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama.
Trump sparked international criticism at the time when he appeared to back away from support for a two-state solution, saying he would leave it up to the parties themselves to decide.
The goal of a Palestinian state living peacefully beside Israel has been the position of successive US administrations and the international community.
“I’ve always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Trump said on Wednesday. “Let’s see if we can prove them wrong.” But he offered no new policy prescriptions.
Palestinians hope that Trump will succeed in reaching a comprehensive peace in the region. “If the United States and the international community are serious about ending violence and terrorism, the basic premise is to eliminate the occupation,” said Abbas Spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina.
“The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967 must be put to an end and all prisoners freed. East Jerusalem is the capital of Palestinian people,” he added.
For his part, head of Hamas’ political bureau, Khaled Mashaal urged Trump to seize the opportunity and motivate a Middle East peace process which reaches a just solution for all Palestinians.
In his interview with CNN, Mashaal said that Trump has a “historic opportunity” to find an “equitable solution” for the Palestinian people.
“This is a historic opportunity to pressure Israel.. to find an equitable solution for the Palestinian people,” he said. “And it will be to the credit of the civilized world and the American administration to stop the darkness that we have been suffering from for many years.”
“This is a plea from me to the Trump administration — the new American administration — break out from the wrong approaches of the past and which did not arrive at a result. And perhaps to grab the opportunity presented by Hamas’ document,” Mashaal said.