Trump Can Broker ‘Historic Peace Deal,’ Abbas Tells U.S. EnvoyBy
Greenblatt calls talks with Palestinian leader ‘far-reaching’
State Department says trip is first of many visits to region
President Donald Trump can help strike a deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the White House’s chief negotiator for Middle East peace talks Tuesday.
Abbas told Trump aide Jason Greenblatt that he is “fully committed to creating an atmosphere that is conducive to making peace,” according to a statement emailed by the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem. The meeting took place at the Palestinian president’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The Palestinian leader said “he believes that under President Trump’s leadership a historic peace deal is possible, and that it will enhance security throughout the region,” according to the statement. Abbas said he looks forward to visiting the White House soon at Trump’s invitation so the two can speak directly.
Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, talked to Abbas about peace efforts, bolstering Palestinian security forces and stopping incitement against Israel, he said in a Twitter message. The meeting, which he termed “positive and far-reaching,” followed talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem after Greenblatt’s arrival on Monday.
The Trump envoy has been charged with determining whether tangible progress can be made toward curtailing the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians despite decades of failed talks, most recently initiated by the Obama administration in 2014.
Before the meeting at Abbas’s office. Greenblatt emphasized the U.S. president’s commitment “to the effort to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve a lasting peace through direct negotiations,” according to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. The U.S. envoy also held a roundtable discussion with heads of Palestinian technology startups.
In Jerusalem Monday, Greenblatt and Netanyahu also talked about limits on construction in West Bank settlements “in the hope of working out an approach that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security,” the statement said. Palestinians have demanded a settlement construction freeze for negotiations to renew.
Trump invited Abbas to the White House in a phone call last week, his first direct communication with a Palestinian leader since taking office in January. The contact came almost a month after Netanyahu was warmly received by the president in Washington after years of friction with the Obama administration.
Greenblatt made the trip “to do a lot of listening, discussing the views of the leadership in the region,” acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Monday in Washington, calling it “the first of what will become many visits.”
The U.S. envoy, who served as chief legal officer for the Trump Organization for 20 years before joining the administration, was to return to Jerusalem from the West Bank for more meetings with Israeli officials, including Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition in parliament.
Netanyahu described his five hours of talks with Greenblatt as “authentic and honest in the positive sense,” speaking at a news conference in Jerusalem Tuesday.
Trump altered U.S. policy at a White House news conference with Netanyahu last month by indicating that Palestinian statehood wouldn’t necessarily be the outcome of peace talks. “I’m looking at a two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said. He also asked Netanyahu to “hold off on settlements for a little bit” while he looks into peacemaking prospects and said, “I think we’re going to make a deal.”
Greenblatt and Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., were appointed by their leaders last month to reach an understanding between the two countries on settlement construction. Before Trump asked him to hold off, Netanyahu announced that Israel would build the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter-century and some 6,000 new apartments across the territory where Palestinians want to establish an independent state.
Trump has also stopped mentioning his campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that Palestinians said would provoke a potentially violent reaction.
After their meeting in Jerusalem on Monday, Greenblatt and Netanyahu declared their commitment to “advance a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians that strengthens the security of Israel and enhances stability in the region,” according to the statement put out jointly by the U.S. and Israeli governments.
— With assistance by Margaret Talev