Palestinians Seek More Assertive Trump for Talks With Israel

  • ‘We want to see him intervening, we want to see ultimate deal’
  • Abbas hopes to puncture Trump resistance to two-state solution

Mahmud Abbas

Photographer: Abbas Momami/AFP via Getty Images

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will try to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump when they meet next week to endorse a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel and get more assertive about bringing both sides to the peace table, his envoy to Washington said.

“We want to see him intervening, we want to see him successful and we want to see an ultimate deal,” Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.S., said in a phone interview. “We just have to know where we’re going, what’s the final destination.”

Husam Zomlot

Photographer: Karim Selmanoui/EPA

That’s an ambitious goal considering Trump has broken with more than a decade of U.S. policy and resisted declaring support for Palestinian statehood. Abbas and his advisers have increasingly expressed their frustration over Trump’s insistence that he will leave it to the two parties to agree on whether there will be two states or one state in a final peace deal.

On the streets of Ramallah, Palestinian protesters have burned Israeli flags and brandished signs painting Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and Mideast policy chief, as a dog.

“Perhaps now is the time that President Trump decides on which way to go,” Zomlot said.

Abbas will meet Trump in New York on Sept. 20, the same day he addresses the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak a day earlier and will also hold separate talks with the U.S. president. No three-way meeting has been announced.

In a report prepared for presentation to the UN next week, the International Monetary Fund reduced its medium-term forecast for Palestinian economic growth on Tuesday to 3 percent from 3.3 percent in April.

Netanyahu’s Diplomacy

Israelis and Palestinians haven’t engaged in formal peace talks since 2014, when negotiations brokered by former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry disintegrated amid mutual finger-pointing.

Zomlot, 43, who was a strategic adviser to Abbas before being sent to Washington in April, expressed skepticism over Netanyahu’s campaign to deepen alliances around the world in which he’s arguing that the Palestinians no longer present a significant obstacle. The Israeli leader is currently on a Latin American trip where he is promoting Israeli technology and asking for political support at the UN.

“I think no matter how far he hides his head under the sand in Africa or in Asia, he knows that the one major issue facing Israel is the Palestinian issue,” Zomlot said. “It will not be easy for him to sell a non-solutionist agenda.” He noted this week’s cancellation of an October conference in Togo where Netanyahu had been invited to confer with leaders of about two dozen African nations.

Despite the Palestinians’ perception that Trump negotiator Jason Greenblatt is more sympathetic to Israel as an Orthodox Jew, Zomlot said they’ve developed a good relationship with frequent meetings at the White House. “The man is warm, the man has a human side to him,” he said. “I consider him to be a close friend.”

Still, mindful of politics at home, Zomlot says he maintains a strictly business approach with his U.S. and Israeli interlocutors in Washington. “I do not convene any informal meetings,” he said.

The Palestinian Authority arrested a Hebron man this month for hosting a lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud party who lives in a settlement for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, the Ma’an news agency reported.

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