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Palestinian ambassador reveals details about Trump’s meetings with Abbas, accuses the U.S. of ‘backstabbing’

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The head of the Palestinian Mission to the United States accused President Donald Trump of “backstabbing” President Mahmoud Abbas in a talk yesterday, deepening a dispute over who is to blame for failure of a peace deal with Israel. That morning Trump said Palestinian leaders had abandoned pre-talk discussions, making the claim while seated next to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos at the World Economic Forum. Trump called Netanyahu a “close personal friend,” which served as a reminder to the Palestinians which side the administration has been on.

Hours later Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot took the stage in Washington DC at the Middle East Institute, presenting an altogether different narrative: the Palestinians were bystanders to internal divisions within the Trump administration that prevented peace talks from starting months ago. 

It was “the Americans who blocked the Americans” from kick-starting negotiations with Israel, not the Palestinians, Zomlot said, revealing confidential discussions between the Trump and Abbas that took place last year. From the first sit-down between the two presidents in May 2017 until December, the Palestinian leadership had been “nagging” Trump to begin direct talks with Israel, he said. 

The rupture in relations between the Trump administration and the Palestinian leadership started on December 6, 2017 when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, “unilaterally,” Zomlot pointed.

Yet prior to the fallout, Zomlot described many months of warm relations and flattery from Trump to Abbas. Zomlot was present for three meeting with Trump, and even stood next to Abbas while he was on the phone with him in the capacity of being Abbas’ then senior advisor.

Recounting a March 2017 phone call between Trump and Abbas, Zomlot said Trump told Abbas that he “has been hearing great things about President Abbas from everybody. That he now believes that President Abbas is the man, is the statesman is the one who actually has been committed and will be committed to a vision of peace.”

“The second message that [Trump] delivered on the phone is that he also wants to make peace. That he has been watching this conflict since he was a child and that he thinks it’s senseless and must end. To our absolute happy surprise we were hearing the conversation,” Zomlot said.

It was in this first call where Trump proposed his signature approach to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “I am going to intervene. I am want to be a fair arbitrator. I want to bring an end to this. I want to present you and the region and the world with what I call the ultimate deal,” Zomlot continued.

“Are you in?” Trump asked Abbas, to which the Palestinian leader “did not blink,” Zomlot said. Abbas responded, “yes this has been what I have been looking for for many, many years,” Zomlot relayed.

At the end of this call Trump invited Abbas to visit the White House in May. “It was absolutely a success in every sense. Put aside all other issues, but as far as that engagement, as far as the discussion, the commitments, the chemistry, things were actually not bad,” Zomlot said.

Over the course of the next few months Trump met Abbas two more times, once in Bethlehem and once in New York. Zomlot was present for both encounters.

“I tell you it was going from strength to strength, from good to better,” Zomlot said.

Moreover, communication between Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and envoy on Middle East peace Jason Greenblatt shuttled between Washington and the Ramallah, which seemingly gave the Palestinian leadership a signal of progress.

“We met his team tens of times, we lost count,” Zomlot said. In those sit downs, Zomlot relayed that the Palestinian leadership insisted on a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as its capital. This was not challenged by Trump’s envoys.

Then communication abruptly came to a halt after Trump’s Jerusalem-is-Israel’s-capital speech. Since that time, the senior Trump officials working on brokering Middle East peace, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, stopped reaching out to their Palestinian partners. Zomlot, as well, has not talked to either. “My phone is open,” he said. 

The sudden rupture left the Palestinian leadership aghast. Not only had Trump seemingly reversed a personal commitment to the Palestinians, but Trump accused Abbas of refusing to negotiate with Israel and has implemented punitive financial cuts on services for Palestinian refugees totaling over $100 million.

Indeed, after the Jerusalem announcement Abbas emphatically said he would not continue peace discussion with the U.S. as a mediator unless it reversed the Jerusalem statement. Abbas’s top council also voted to temporarily suspend recognition of Israel. Yet Zomlot said that prior to the breakdown in relations, the Palestinian leadership had actually begged Trump to start direct peace talks with Israel.

“From the very first meeting” between Presidents Trump and Abbas, the Palestinians told the U.S. they were ready for direct negotiations, Zomlot said, “We, since May, have been literally nagging for this to happen, to no success.”

“So when I hear that the Palestinians have walked away from negotiations, I just pause, I just pause,” Zomlot said. He dismissed the notion that the Palestinian leadership had formally thrown in the towel on U.S. back talks. Zomlot said he will “double down” on efforts to strengthen the bi-lateral relationship.

Given in scant detail, Zomlot said the focus of Palestinian leaders now is to bypass the Trump administration and appeal directly to Congress and the American public to back a multilateral framework for peace talks. The Palestinians have, for years, asked the international community for a P5+1 framework—with the U.S. as one of the mediators along with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany —to demand the establishment of a Palestinian state. When asked if the Palestinians would seek another resolution at the United Nations Security Council, he confirmed his government would. 

Israel has rejected Palestinian moves at the United Nations and only endorses reaching a peace deal with the U.S. as the sole mediator. In the past, Israel has said Palestinian activities in the international community have constituted an abandoning of a course for peace they both agreed to over two decades ago. “America was Israel’s lawyers for all of these years,” but the Palestinians continued to work with the U.S. peace process because of an explicit acknowledgement that East Jerusalem would become the capital of a future Palestinian state, Zomlot said. Now with Trump, all of that has gone out the window. 

“There has been a lot of defamation of the Palestinians people, their story and their rights and it’s about time we tell our story in the most dignified manner possible,” Zomlot later told Mondoweiss, “our orientation is to find an agreement, we are not motivated by blame or shame.”

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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19 Responses

  1. Rusty Pipes on January 26, 2018, 8:46 pm

    Frankly, the Palestinian ambassador’s interview is disturbing. If behind Abbas’ proclamation of cutting off negotiations with Israel, the ambassador is begging for resumption of negotiations, all of Abbas’ moves at the UN are an empty show, just a move to exert pressure to resume fruitless negotiations, fiddling while Rome burns (or while Israel continues its piece by piece process of consuming Palestine’s pizza).

    • Talkback on January 27, 2018, 8:27 am

      Rusty Pipes: “If behind Abbas’ proclamation of cutting off negotiations with Israel, the ambassador is begging for resumption of negotiations …”

      My understanding is that he begged for resumption of negotiations only until Trump’s Jerusalem announcement.

    • genesto on January 31, 2018, 5:24 pm

      Yes, it’s all showplay, meant to shore up Abbas’ image as a so-called leader of the Palestinian people. Trump’s proclaiming of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and consequent abandoning of the two-state solution, exposes Abbas for the fraud he really is.

  2. Citizen on January 26, 2018, 9:52 pm

    Kerry said recently to a Palestinian official that Trump won’t be POTUS long, and then, in effect, “we can get back to reality.” But Kerry pulled a totally focused Kissinger, running back & forth, negotiating non-stop–for an entire year! With 0 result. Yet word’s out that Kerry may run for POTUS & we have the US abstention re settlements as illegal on the books. & some BDS victories–but also much anti-BDS state legislation, with Florida now considering it. The net in this situation post Trump’s Jerusalem & aid cuts–forecasts what probabilities?

    If the focus of Palestinian leaders now is to bypass the Trump administration and appeal directly to Congress and the American public to back a multilateral (P5+1) framework for peace talks?

    I don’t why Palestinian leaders now think Congress may help them. Then again, Democratic leadership does seem up for grabs–maybe at next DNC something about this may get into the party platform as a plank. Then again, we saw what happened, right on primetime tv when Jerusalem plank was knocked out by a gavel despite no clear yay vs nay audio winner….

    I don’t think Trump ever even thought about giving the Palestinians a fair shake. He’s surrounded by hand-picked neocons-Zionists. Javanka

    I guess I’m just rambling here–Trump did say Israel would have to give up something–I can’t imagine the Palestinians getting anything substantial from Trump–Jerusalem was a free shot for the Israelis, and cutting off humanitarian aid to the Palestinians was like kicking a man with no legs, really bully stuff.

  3. Felice Gelman on January 27, 2018, 12:27 pm

    This interview is just one more piece of evidence that the PA is totally isolated from political reality. After almost thirty years of fruitless negotiation, it should be clear that power does not concede power, it must be forced to do so. It is something we would do well to remember here as well. Whatever Trump says, either about Palestine or anything else, is irrelevant as well as transient. His government has one aim — entrench corporatism wherever possible. It’s most willing ally and role model is Israel. It’s our job to make sure that is not forgotten.

  4. James Canning on January 27, 2018, 6:43 pm

    Sadly, the US cannot serve effectively as a mediator, given the near-total control of Congress and the Presidency by the Israel lobby.

  5. JLewisDickerson on January 28, 2018, 4:13 am

    RE:“That morning Trump said Palestinian leaders had abandoned pre-talk discussions, making the claim while seated next to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos at the World Economic Forum.” ~ Deger

    MY COMMENT: Trump and Netanyahu are “creating reality”!

    ■ Donald Trump: “I’m not lying, I’m creating reality.” | New Republic
    Mar 23, 2017 – Time has a fascinating interview with Trump about his use of lies, falsehoods, untruths, and exaggerations, especially on Twitter. (It’s part of an interesting and sober feature on the same subject.) The interview is a window into Trump’s brain and the result is more or less what you’d expect—Trump is essentially convinced that he can shape reality by tweeting it. He freely admits, for instance, that many of his tweets are simple speculation and proudly tells Time’s Michael Scherer that he has been proven right again and again. Trump does not seem to realize that, as president, his “predictions” provide powerful incentives to people to provide corroborating information—like Devin Nunes, who brought Trump “evidence” that he was surveilled by the Obama administration, even though this had nothing to do with Trump’s original claim, on Twitter, that he was “wiretapped.” . . .

    • JLewisDickerson on January 28, 2018, 4:54 am

      P.S. RE: Trump and Netanyahu are “creating reality”! – me (above)

      IN OTHER (i.e., Rove’s*) WORDS: Trump and Netanyahu are “history’s actors”.

      * SEE:
      Reality-based community
      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ~

      [EXCERPTS] Reality-based community is a political label used to refer to those on the American Left who make political judgments based on present reality, in contrast with opposing factions which do not. The phrase can be pejorative or positive. It was first used by the George W. Bush Administration to criticize their opponents for limiting their vision to the way things were rather than including what the Administration’s actions made possible. The phrase was quickly reappropriated to criticize the Administration for “faith-based” wishful thinking.[1] This meaning of reality-based community eclipsed the phrase’s original intention and is used this way by both the political left, which uses it in a positive sense, and right, which uses it ironically.

      • Origin
      The phrase was attributed by journalist Ron Suskind to an unnamed official in the George W. Bush Administration who used it to denigrate a critic of the administration’s policies as someone who based their judgements on facts.[2] In a 2004 article appearing in the New York Times Magazine, Suskind wrote:

      The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ […] ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do’.[3]

      The source of the quotation was later identified as Bush’s senior advisor Karl Rove,[4] although Rove has denied saying it.[5]. . .

      • Evaluation
      Though some on the left side of the United States political spectrum considered it as a badge of honor,[2][6] the term and the piece of writing where it was revealed to the public were not perceived as significant by conservatives.[7][8] It was given a second life by growth of the so-called post-truth political culture.[9][10][11]

      Zbigniew Brzezinski in his book, Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower considered the manner in which “the senior Bush aide derisively dismissed criticism from what he called “the reality based community” as demonstration of the “arrogance that swept the Bush White House”.[12] International Relations scholar Fred Halliday wrote that the phrase reality-based community (in contrast to faith-based community) was “a term of disparagement in the Bush Administration for those who did not share their international goals and aspirations”.[2] According to liberal media critic and journalism professor Jay Rosen, “Many on the left adopted the term. ‘Proud Member of the Reality-Based Community,’ their blogs said. The right then jeered at the left’s self-description.”[13] . . .

      • JLewisDickerson on January 28, 2018, 10:03 am

        P.P.S. ALSO SEE:
        Post-truth politics
        From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ~
        [EXCERPTS] Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics[1] and post-reality politics[2]) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Post-truth differs from traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by rendering it of “secondary” importance. . .

        • History
        . . . The term “post-truth politics” was coined by the blogger David Roberts in a blog post for Grist on 1 April 2010, where it was defined as “a political culture in which politics (public opinion and media narratives) have become almost entirely disconnected from policy (the substance of legislation)”.[18][19] The term became widespread during the campaigns for the 2016 presidential election in the United States and the 2016 referendum on membership in the European Union in the United Kingdom.[10][11] Oxford Dictionaries declared that its international word of the year in 2016 is “post-truth”, citing a 2,000% increase in usage compared to 2015.[9] . . .

        • Description
        A defining trait of post-truth politics is that campaigners continue to repeat their talking points, even if these are found to be untrue by the media or independent experts.[22] For example, during campaigning for the British EU referendum campaign, Vote Leave made repeated use of the claim that EU membership cost £350 million a week, although later began to use the figure as a net amount of money sent directly to the EU. This figure, which ignored the UK rebate and other factors, was described as “potentially misleading” by the UK Statistics Authority, as “not sensible” by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and was rejected in fact-checks by BBC News, Channel 4 News and Full Fact.[23][24][25] Vote Leave nevertheless continued to use the figure as a centrepiece of their campaign until the day of the referendum, after which point they downplayed the pledge as having been an “example”, pointing out that it was only ever suggested as a possible alternative use of the net funds sent to the EU.[26] Tory MP and Leave campaigner Sarah Wollaston, who left the group in protest during its campaign, criticised its “post-truth politics”.[21] . . .

        • United States
        . . . In 2016, the “post-truth” label was especially widely used to describe the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, including by Professor Daniel W. Drezner in The Washington Post,[11] Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian,[10] Chris Cillizza in The Independent,[29] Jeet Heer in The New Republic,[58] and James Kirchick in the Los Angeles Times,[59] and by several professors of government and history at Harvard.[20] In 2017, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and others, have pointed out lies or falsehoods in Trump’s statements after the election.[60][61][62][63] President Barack Obama stated that the new media ecosystem “means everything is true and nothing is true”.[64] …

      • RoHa on January 28, 2018, 6:16 pm

        It doesn’t seem any different from the pre-truth politics I’ve been watching for the last sixty years.

    • JLewisDickerson on January 28, 2018, 5:12 am

      P.P.S. RE: “Time has a fascinating interview with Trump about his use of lies” ~ New Republic (excerpted above)

      Read President Trump’s Interview With TIME on Truth and Falsehoods
      LINK ➤

    • JLewisDickerson on January 28, 2018, 6:27 am

      P.P.P.S. ALSO SEE:
      How America Lost Its Mind | by Kurt Andersen | theatlantic | Sept. 2017
      The nation’s current post-truth moment is the ultimate expression of mind-sets that have made America exceptional throughout its history.

      “We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.” — Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961)

      LINK ➤

      • JLewisDickerson on January 28, 2018, 8:41 am

        ■ Creating Reality – Halexandria
        Creating Reality. Update 1 September 2004. Simply put, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Our thoughts determine the present and future of what is contained within our lives. It’s all about our choices. How and what we choose, upon what we focus, concentrate, or direct our attention, and where we spend our …

        ■ Thought Power – Your Thoughts Create Your Reality
        Thought power is the key to creating your reality. Everything you perceive in the physical world has its origin in the invisible, inner world of your thoughts and beliefs. To become the master of your destiny, you must learn to control the nature of your dominant, habitual thoughts …

        ■ ‘Creating Reality, by Andy Kaufman,’ at Maccarone – The New York Times…/
        Feb 8, 2013 – A lesser-known persona of Andy Kaufman — stand-up innovator, satirist and cult figure — is on view in “Creating Reality, by Andy Kaufman.”

      • JLewisDickerson on March 1, 2018, 2:56 am

        ◙ Michael Haneke – Cinematic Truths and Realities Lies

        Channel Criswell
        Published on Jan 9, 2018

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        Price, Brian and Rhodes, John R. On Michael Haneke, 2010
        Baudrillard, Jean. Simulcras and Simulations. 1981
        Brunette, Peter. Michael Haneke. 2010

        The Seventh Continent – Christopher Sharrett
        The White Ribbon – Daniel Kasman
        Cache – Steven Shaviro
        Ambivalence and Displacement in Cache – Mary Caputi
        Cache and the Secret Image – Kartik Nair
        Funny Games – Chris Justice
        “What are you looking at and why?” – Tarja Laine
        Fun and Games – Daniel Hui
        What Michael Haneke Owes to Kafka – Peter Bradshaw
        The New Order: The Method of Madness in the Cinema of Michael Haneke – Oliver Speck

        Press the CC Button to see a list of the films shown.

  6. Kay24 on January 28, 2018, 4:34 am

    President after President, one Congress after another, have failed to release the Palestinian people from the occupation, and failed to stop the criminals of Israel, from building illegal settlements, and the endless acts of inhumanity against helpless civilians. They have sent billions of dollars in aid, weapons, and protected this rogue nation, at the UN. Trump only made bad things worse, by giving these scoundrels Jerusalem, all tied up with a bow colored with stars and stripes.

    OT but interesting:

    This book only confirms what we already know, that Israel is a pariah and terror state, always at the bottom of massacres, chaos, and now assassinations:

    “Poisoned toothpaste and exploding phones: New book chronicles Israel’s ‘2,700’ assassination operations
    Intelligence correspondent Ronen Bergman persuades Mossad agents, Shin Bet and military personnel to disclose their stories on state-sponsored killings”

    Are we paying them those billions of dollars to get our dirty work done too?

    Will the zionist media is the US interview the author, and discuss it?

  7. Boomer on January 28, 2018, 4:18 pm

    Ah well, R. Cohen tells us that it’s time for Abbas to go; otherwise there will be an exodus of Palestinians. Also, he observes:

    “In the current vacuum, a dream of one state with equal rights for all peoples — a kind of United States of the Holy Land — has gained some traction. It is pure, if seductive, illusion — flimsy code for the destruction of Israel as the national homeland of the Jews. It will not happen.”

    • Kay24 on January 28, 2018, 7:47 pm

      If R. Cohen was honest, he would have called for Netanyahu to go, after all he is under investigation for corruption, together with his wife, and no good son, and has failed to achieve any resolution into this 60 year conflict.

      • inbound39 on January 29, 2018, 12:38 am

        The reality is that at some point the complete truth about Israel is going to come out. All their War Crimes,abuses,collective punishments and assassinations,ethnic cleansing and deliberate massacres will be laid bare for the World to see. It is coming. Even today more truth is spoken about Israel’s nefarious dealings than ever before. Countries that currently stand with Israel need to be aware they need to swap positions and ensure they are on the right side of history when it all comes out. America especially.Israel is going to have no show at stopping the flood of information.

    • traintosiberia on February 1, 2018, 12:46 pm

      Very difficult to climb out of the bubble and leave the bubble in place.

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