Palestinian deal put on backburner during Trump visit

Elias Hubbard
May 27, 2017

At the same time though, following Trump's much-noticed statements concerning a renewed USA attempt to kickstart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians as well as his warming up to the Saudi leadership, analysts and reporters try to decipher the president's true intentions for the region, and wonder how cooperation between Netanyahu and the American leader will hold up given these plans. He is slated to meet separately with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.

"At this stage of an administration, keeping your cards close to your vest is probably not a bad thing", said Dennis Ross, who served as a Middle East peace envoy under President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.

"On my first trip overseas as President, I have come to this sacred and ancient land to reaffirm unbreakable bond between us and Israel", Trump said during a welcome ceremony at the airport. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu frequently boasts of his behind-the-scenes cooperation with moderate Sunni countries that are believed to include Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. A bewildered-looking Trump agreed and the MK took the snap, although, amusingly, Netanyahu tried to prevent it by gently pushing Hazan's arm.

The reception marked a contrast from his difficulties at home where he is struggling to contain a mushrooming scandal after his firing of former FBI Director James Comey almost two weeks ago.

He has appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a senior adviser on brokering an agreement, while Jason Greenblatt, formerly a lawyer in Trump's real estate group, has taken the day-to-day role of liaising with officials and leaders in the region on the nitty-gritty contours of any solution.

Asked if Trump would apologize to Israeli officials for sharing Israeli intelligence with Russian officials earlier this month, Tillerson responded, "I don't know that there's anything to apologize for". 'Both sides will face tough decisions.

Over the weekend, Trump received a warm welcome from Arab leaders, who focused on his desire to crack down on Iran's influence in the region, a commitment they found wanting in the Republican president's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.

"The Palestinians are ready to reach for peace. But with determination, compromise and the belief that peace is possible, Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal", Trump said. "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", Trump said.

"We can only get there working together, there is no other way".

During his stay in Saudi Arabia, Trump had accused Iran of fuelling "the fires of sectarian conflict and terror" in the region and called for its worldwide isolation. Nobody will want to insult someone so close to the president by dismissing a proposal out of hand, said Dan Shapiro, the USA ambassador to Israel for six years under President Barack Obama.

"We reaffirm our position on the two-state solution on the 1967 borders - the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, to live side by side with Israel in security and good-neighborly relations, and to resolve the permanent status issues based on worldwide law and global resolutions and to honor the signed agreements in a way that would allow for the implementation of the Arab peace initiative, as reaffirmed at the recent Arab summit in Jordan", said Abbas.

One of the long-standing regional proposals is a Saudi peace initiative that was first put forward in 2002 and has been re-endorsed several times since. It also urges a "just settlement" of the Palestinian refugee problem.

Palestinians yesterday gathered to protest at various places in the territories against Trump's visit and over conditions in Israeli prisons and at military checkpoints around the West Bank.

Abbas said he was keen to "keep the door open to dialogue with our Israeli neighbors".

Yet many Palestinians say they are skeptical that someone with such close ties to Israel can ever be even-handed. "In so doing we will all enjoy a safer and brighter future and a safer and brighter world", he said after holding talks with the Palestinian president in Bethlehem.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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