Update. Today Donald Trump appeared with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House and Trump spoke vaguely about “peace,” while Abbas praised Trump’s “leadership” as the chance for a “historic peace treaty,” which would end “occupation.”
Trump said nothing critical of Israel, but blamed Palestinian leaders for inciting violence by children.
There’s such hatred. But hopefully there won’t be such hatred for very long…. We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We will get it done. We will be working so hard to get it done. It’s been a long time, but we will be working diligently. And I think there’s a very, very good chance, and I think you feel the same way.
Abbas on occupation:
Mr. President, it’s about time for Israel to end its occupation of our people and of our land after 50 years. We are the only remaining people in the world that still live under occupation. We are aspiring and want to achieve our freedom, our dignity, and our right to self-determination. And we also want for Israel to recognize the Palestinian state just as the Palestinian people recognize the state of Israel.
Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace.
Last night an old friend told me that Donald Trump is at once so disruptive and so keen to make the ultimate deal that some Palestinians are looking to President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to the White House as presenting real hope for a breakthrough in the 70 year impasse on the world’s promise to give self-determination to the Palestinian people. Yes I know this will strike many as laughable. But I am just passing along what some are saying.
That optimism is expressed foremost by Jibril Rajoub, a Fatah leader, in Newsweek: Let us not miss the Trump opportunity!
President Trump, speaking at a press conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah on April 5, reiterated his hope to “be successful in finally finding peace between the Palestinian people and Israel.”
We are therefore convinced more than ever that, with impartial support from the US, this peace is still possible, however distant it may seem today.
Rajoub praises Trump for suggesting to Benjamin Netanyahu that he not build so many settlements, and:
In June our people will commemorate the 50 th anniversary of the Israeli occupation. The Trump administration is offering an opportunity to bring an end to this decades-long conflict and mark the beginning of a new era of peace, security and historic reconciliation. Let us not miss the Trump opportunity.
William Booth of the Post reports that others in Abbas’s circle are also hopeful.
the Arab leader and his advisers are expressing a kind of optimism not heard in years.
The Palestinians are saying they think Trump might be the one – with the right mix of bombast and unpredictability – to restart peace negotiations with Israel with the aim of securing Palestinian borders, a capital and a state.
One positive sign is that Israel lobbyists aren’t pleased with this meeting. David Makovsky of WINEP says there are “incredibly low expectations” for the Trump-Abbas meeting, Booth reports.
Shibley Telhami shares those expectations. He has a piece in the Washington Post saying that Trump has offered encouragement to “Palestinian optimists.” But that the president’s approach is misguided.
Palestinian optimists have reason to believe that Trump might push diplomacy in a promising direction. He touted a regional approach that Arabs have favored for the past 15 years, since the Arab Peace Initiative. Trump is considering a trip to the Middle East at the end of this month, partly to generate diplomatic momentum. The lure of a broader peace between Israel and other Arab states could be enticing to Israelis, while Arabs could theoretically bring some levers to help the Palestinian hand.
But Trump’s regional approach appears to have been inspired by Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister has countered his critics by rejecting the notion that the absence of a deal with Palestinians prevents stronger ties with other Arabs.
Trump is also constrained by his base to support Netanyahu, Telhami says. The scholar produces polling showing that most Democrats want to impose sanctions/apply pressure on Israel over settlement building but that Trump’s base, Republicans, are completely on Israel’s side:
Abbas has little choice but to explore what Trump has in mind. But our survey shows that despite the trend in the general public toward a more evenhanded approach on the issue, that’s not the case for Trump backers. When there is a stalemate in the negotiations, interpreting why, whom to blame and how America should respond will depend on who is doing the interpretation. And in Trump’s world, Abbas has little chance to compete with Netanyahu. Whatever his personal instinct, it’s unlikely that Trump will try to twist Netanyahu’s arm — certainly not on core issues.
Chas Freeman at Lobelog is also pessimistic. He points out that Abbas is in the 12th year of his four year term and is regarded by Palestinians as a collaborator in their imprisonment. While Trump will pursue an “outside-in” approach, calling on Sunni Arab states that are quietly cooperating with Israel against Iran, to make the peace. But it cannot work, because it’s one state.
Trump, of course, has his own illusions, both on the Civil War and the Israel/Palestine conflict. He told Reuters in an interview last week:
“I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians. There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians – none whatsoever.”
You’d think a real estate guy would be a little more aware…
“Trump might realize that Netanyahu is the worst kind of deal-maker that any businessman would ever want to encounter”
Buttu says that nearly 2/3 of Palestinians want Abbas to resign, “and as a result this meeting with President Trump isn’t going to do anything more other than try to attempt to get him to boost his popularity.” Bilateral negotiations won’t work; there’s a structural problem in such an approach. Abbas should support the hunger strike or BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions). But the illusion of bilateral negotiations are Abbas’s only claim to be doing something.
A statement of resumption of negotiations will be a victory for Abbas, Buttu says; but will only signal more desperation for the Palestinian people. Even Aaron David Miller tells KCRW that the peace process is a fiction. But Abbas has no choice to play along.
Munayyer suggests that Trump could actually shake things up, once he’s had a bellyful of Netanyahu. From twitter:
What happens when Trump realizes Netanyahu is a snake oil salesman not a good faith negotiator? Chances are, he just ignores Isr/Palestine
Netanyahu’s MO is delay delay delay. Clinton/Obama dealt with that with far too much patience for many reasons but Trump is wild card.
Noura Erakat also said that Abbas was going to the wrong address, he should be appealing for international support. From the Institute for Middle East Understanding:
It is rather tragic that Mahmoud Abbas is meeting with Donald Trump at a time when even NFL Super Bowl champions are refusing the 45th President’s invitation due to his jingoist and destructive policies. Abbas has much to learn from these athletes….
The best thing Abbas could do right now is use Trump’s dismal record and the promise of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israel’s settlement enterprise as illegal to pivot away from the US to internationalize the conflict.
Here’s one guy who’s not worried about Trump putting any pressure on Israel!
— Rabbi Shmuley (@RabbiShmuley) May 2, 2017