Donald Trump has vowed to work on brokering peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Speaking as he hosted his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, the US president offered no clues about how he could break the political deadlock and revive stalled peace negotiations.
What did Trump say?
In their first face-to-face meeting, he pressed the Palestinian leaders to “speak in a unified voice against incitement” to violence against Israelis.
However, he stopped short of explicitly re-committing the US administration to a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict.
“We will get this done,” Trump told Abbas during a joint appearance at the White House.
He said he is prepared to act as a mediator, facilitator or arbitrator between the two sides.
President Trump on Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations: “We will get this done.” https://t.co/j1IwliHyjD— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) 3 mai 2017
What did Abbas say?
He quickly reasserted the goal of the creation of a Palestinian state as vital to any rejuvenated peace process.
He insisted it must:
- have its capital in Jerusalem
- have borders based on pre-1967 lines
Israel rejects a full return to 1967 borders as a threat to its security.
Speaking through a translator, Abbas told Trump that under “your courageous stewardship and your wisdom, as well as your great negotiations ability,” the Palestinians would be partners seeking an “historic peace treaty.”
“It is about time for Israel to end its occupation of our people and our land,” a reference to Jewish settlement building in the West Bank.
Reaffirming his commitment to a two-state solution, he called on Israel to recognise Palestinian statehood just as Palestinians recognise the state of Israel.
Abbas says President Trump has the “determination” to make Middle East peace possible pic.twitter.com/WCWQ7ycxH1— NBC News (@NBCNews) 3 mai 2017
Are expectations high for the talks?
However, plans are being firmed up for Trump to visit Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and possibly Abbas in the West Bank, on May 22-23.
US and Israeli officials have, however, refused to confirm details of the visit.
Abbas, who governs in the West Bank while Hamas militants rule Gaza, was under pressure at home to avoid making major concessions to Trump.
Palestinian officials say it will be hard for Abbas to return to the negotiating table without a long-standing pre-condition of a freeze on Jewish settlement expansion on land Israel occupied in 1967, which Palestinians want for a state.
Abbas’ White House talks follow a mid-February visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu 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 supporting a two-state solution.
The policy has long been a bedrock policy of successive US administrations and the international community.
The last round of US-brokered peace talks collapsed in 2014.