An insider account of the events surrounding last week’s meeting between US President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas reveals optimism among Palestinian officials regarding the new White House occupant.
The account — published in the Ramallah-based Al-Ayyam daily newspaper, which is close to Abbas — is titled “The Secrets and Details of President [Abbas’] Visit and Talks in the US Capital.”
“The observers were unanimous that President Abbas received an unusually [warm] welcome in the White House,” the Al-Ayyam report — translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute — said. “The Palestinian flag was prominently displayed in many places, especially in the historic Roosevelt Room, where it…stood behind the US president as he gave his address.”
According to Al-Ayyam, there was a good deal of anxiety among Abbas and his colleagues following Trump’s inauguration in January. But, the paper continued, “after talking a great deal about the cold shoulder turned to Abbas by the new inhabitant of the White House, and the implications [of this attitude], analysts found themselves faced with a sight that even many Palestinian officials had not imagined they would see. [Thanks to preparatory] measures and arrangements that preceded the meeting at the White House, a new bond was formed that is bound to become [even] clearer during Trump’s visit to Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. ”
Trump will be visiting Israel later this month. There has been no official confirmation from the White House that the president will meet with Abbas in Bethlehem.
Key Trump administration officials — including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, international negotiations representative Jason Greenblatt and senior adviser Jared Kushner — were all singled out for praise in the Al-Ayyam report.
Al-Ayyam claimed that Pompeo had been so encouraged by a meeting with Abbas in January that he told his Palestinian host, “I will now go [straight] to the airport and [fly to] Washington, for I want to present the minutes of this meeting to President Trump, who has a meeting scheduled tonight with [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The paper said Abbas was most encouraged by his meetings with Greenblatt, who met with the Palestinian leader both in Ramallah and on the sidelines of a recent Arab League summit in Jordan.
After meeting with Kushner, Abbas reportedly described him as “a polite man who wanted to gain a good understanding of the situation [and who] asked very polite questions about all the topics he wished to understand.”
On the eve of the meeting with Trump, the paper said, “Palestinian officials differed in their assessments. Some expected a smooth and easy meeting while others were afraid of last-minute surprises.” In the end, the paper continued, “The meeting went as Palestinian officials hoped it would, and was very positive, as was clearly evident from President [Abbas’] reception at the White House.”
Abbas was quoted as having made clear to Trump his support for a two-state solution. Abbas is said to have told Trump that there were two alternatives that would not work. “[The first option] is a racist discriminatory state, in which there are two regimes, [one for Palestinians and another for Jews], as is the case today in the Palestinian territories,” he said. “Obviously, we will never agree to this and nobody in the world will agree to it. [The second option] is a binational state. I believe that they [the Israelis] reject this [option] out of hand, and I have [in fact] heard this from [them] on more than one occasion. So we are left with the solution of two states: a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, and Israel. We want a state in those borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
In the aftermath of the Trump-Abbas meeting, Netanyahu said the desire to advance the peace process “is something we fervently share with the president.” At the same time, the Israeli leader excoriated Abbas for claiming that Palestinians promote a “culture of peace.”
“I heard President Abbas yesterday say that the Palestinians teach their children peace,” Netanyahu said. “That’s unfortunately not true. They name their schools after mass murderers of Israelis and they pay terrorists.”
(C) 2017 . The Algemeiner Ben Cohen