Bethlehem – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his call for the establishment of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital during his 45-minute encounter with his American counterpart Donald Trump on Tuesday.
Trump, for his part, stressed the need to forge a historic peace deal, without mentioning any reference to the two-state solution or to an independent Palestinian state.
The US president dedicated less than an hour to meet with Abbas in Bethlehem, during a two-day visit to Israel.
In a joint news conference, the Palestinian president said: “Once again, we reassert to you our positions of accepting the two-state solution along the borders of 1967 — the state of Palestine with its capital as East Jerusalem, living alongside the state of Israel in peace and security and good neighborhood, as well as resolving the entire final status issues based on international law and international long-term resolutions, and respecting side agreements which sets the tone for the implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative in accordance with what has been reaffirmed in the most recent Arab Summit in Jordan.”
Abbas stressed that the Palestinian people’s attainment of freedom and independence was the key to peace and stability in the world, “so that the children of Palestine and Israel enjoy a safe, stable, and prosperous future.”
He also commended the importance of the holding of the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in the Saudi capital on Sunday.
Abbas underlined that the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis was not based on religion.
“As you have witnessed during your historic visit of holy sites in occupied East Jerusalem, and today in Bethlehem, the conflict is not between religions, for respecting religions and prophets is an integral part of our religion and faith. And we are keen to keep the door open to dialogue with our Israeli neighbors from all walks of life in order to boost confidence and create a genuine peace opportunity,” the Palestinian president told his American counterpart.
He stressed, however, that the real problem was in occupation and settlements.
“Our fundamental problem is with the occupation and settlements, and failure of Israel to recognize the state of Palestine in the same way we recognize it, which undermines the realization of the two-state solution. The problem is not between us and Judaism. It’s between us and occupation,” Abbas said.
The Palestinian president raised the issue of Palestinian detainees, who have been holding a hunger strike for more than a month.
“I would like to draw the attention to the issue of our Palestinian prisoners, who have been on hunger strike for more than one month, meters away from here in the vicinity of the Church of the Nativity. And everywhere, all across Palestine, families, mothers of prisoners, suffer from being denied visits to their children. And their demands are humane and just. I demand the Israeli government to meet these humane, legitimate demands,” he said.
Ending his speech, Abbas stated: “Mr. President, we hope that history will say that Donald Trump was the US President who achieved peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Mr. President, I extend my hand to you to be your partner in this noble mission.”
Trump, for his part, made sure not to mention the two-state solution and did not touch on any of the Palestinians’ demands, including the issue of settlements, detainees or the right to self-determination.
“I am committed to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians and I intend to do everything I can to help them achieve that goal. President Abbas assures me he is ready to work toward that goal in good faith. And Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the same. I look forward to working with these leaders toward a lasting peace,” the US president said.
“I also look forward to working with President Abbas on other important matters, such as unlocking the potential of the Palestinian economy — which is having a very rough time — and building on our very positive counterterrorism efforts,” he added.
Trump also condemned the recent terrorist attack in Manchester, saying: “Terrorists and extremists, and those who give them aid and comfort, must be driven out from our society forever. This wicked ideology must be obliterated — and I mean completely obliterated — and innocent life must be protected”.
Trump described his meetings with the leaders of the Muslim world and Arab nations from all across the region in Riyadh as “an epic gathering” and “a historic event”.
“I was gratified that President Abbas joined the summit and committed to taking firm but necessary steps to fight terrorism and confront its hateful ideology,” he stated.