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Posts

Trump torn between The Deal and the GOP

This posting has these items:
1) Al Jazeera: Mahmoud Abbas meets Donald Trump in key US visit, Trump says let’s prove them wrong on this toughest deal;
2) Al Jazeera: Zero details from Trump, an inset into the above article ;
3) NY Times: G.O.P. Pressures Trump to Take Tough Stance With Mahmoud Abbas;
4) Ma’an: Abbas hails Trump’s ‘wisdom’ in DC press conference with the US leader;
5) Times of Israel: Abbas tells US Jewish leaders meeting with Trump was ‘good’;
6) Haaretz: Trump Deletes Tweet Saying It Was ‘An Honour’ to Meet With Abbas;


Presidents give joint statement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, May 3, 2017. Photo by Olivier Douliery/ Pool/Getty Images via JTA


Mahmoud Abbas meets Donald Trump in key US visit

Al Jazeera, 
May 03, 2017

US President Donald Trump has promised to revive the stalled Israel-Palestine peace process after hosting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, without, however, offering any details about how to resolve the long-running conflict.

Speaking after their first face-to-face meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Trump pledged to support Abbas “in being the Palestinian leader who signs his name to the final and the most important peace agreement that brings safety, stability, prosperity to both peoples and to the region”.

He also said he believes Israelis and Palestinians are both willing to make a deal.

“I’ve always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Trump said.

“Let’s see if we can prove them wrong,” he added. “We will get it done.”

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the White House, said the meeting did not bring any clarity to the US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We know what they want, but we don’t know how they are going to get there,” he said. “Trump is not telling us how he is intending to achieve the peace he is promising.”

On his part, Abbas reiterated the Palestinian demand for an independent Palestinian state along pre-1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“Our strategic and sole option is to achieve the two-state solution, the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital to live side by side in peace, safety and stability together with the state of Israel along 1967 borders,” he said.

* * * * * * * * * *


By Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’a senior political analyst

Trump has basically said nothing of importance about the issue, other than promising that he wants to and he will resolve it while providing absolutely zero details about it.

We have absolutely no idea how he plans to accomplish it and whether this is a series of false promises.

This process started in 1993 and until today it has really remained stuck in some of the basic differences between the Israelis and the Palestinians that don’t look like they can be bridged by anyone because of the imbalance of power, and because the gap has in fact widened between the two sides.

We rely on God and Trump.
Pres. Abbas

What is quite surprising, and sad, is when Abbas said we rely on God and Trump – if that’s the Palestinians’ last card today, the way to salvation and independence is to rely on God and Trump, then they are in trouble.

Abbas has been president for 12 years, and elected only once. He really doesn’t have much legitimacy among Palestinians today because he has been able to accomplish little other than symbolic gestures by the international community. On the ground, with the settlements increasing and thousands in prison, the situation continues to get worse.

“We are the only people in the world who remain occupied. That is why we are seeking our freedom, our dignity and the right of self-determination.”

Abbas also told Trump that the Palestinians had hope in him.

“We rely totally on God Almighty, then on you and we promise to be true partners to achieve a historic peace agreement,” he said.

Trump said that any agreement cannot be imposed by the United States.

“The Palestinians and Israelis must work together to reach an agreement that allows both peoples to live, worship and thrive and prosper in peace,” he said.

Prisoners on hunger strike

While Abbas was meeting with Trump, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across the West Bank, rallying in support of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for 17 days in Israeli jails.

The prisoners are demanding better conditions, including more family visits, improved medical care and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention.

Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Ramallah, said: “Lawyers who have filed a motion within the Israeli Supreme Court on behalf of the Palestinian prisoners said that they have come to some arrangement with the Israeli side to gain access to the hunger-striking prisoners which has been banned up until this point.”

He said the ban was the part of the sanctions the Israeli prison system was taking against the hunger strikers for violating the code of behaviour by refusing to eat.

Abbas made the trip to Washington while politically unpopular back home, with polls suggesting most Palestinians want the 82-year-old to resign.

He is hoping Trump can pressure Israel into concessions he believes are necessary to salvage a two-state solution to the conflict – the idea of Israel and Palestine living side-by-side and at peace has been the bedrock of US diplomacy for the past two decades.

But Trump, who promised during his election campaign to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, has previously challenged the legitimacy of Palestinian demands for a state and dropped his country’s commitment to a two-state solution.

“Trump has in the past said he doesn’t mind if it’s a two-state or one-state solution,” Al Jazeera’s Bays said. “All we have in the place of the roadmap we had in the past is optimism from the US president.”

Abbas and Trump spoke by phone on March 11, and there are suggestions the US president could visit the Middle East this month.

Though expectations are low, plans are being firmed up for Trump to visit Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and possibly Abbas in the West Bank, on May 22-23, according to people familiar with the matter.

US and Israeli officials have declined to confirm the visit.

Mutual distrust between Palestinians and Israelis will be a formidable, if not impossible, barrier for Trump to overcome.

Trump faces deep scepticism at home and abroad over his chances for a breakthrough.

National Security Adviser H R McMaster said on Tuesday night that Trump “does not have time to debate over doctrine”, and instead seeks to challenge failed policies of the past with a businessman’s results-oriented approach.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies



G.O.P. Pressures Trump to Take Tough Stance With Mahmoud Abbas

By Peter Baker, NY Times
May 02, 2017

WASHINGTON — As President Trump hosts the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, at the White House on Wednesday for the first time, he faces enormous obstacles to his new peacemaking venture — including pressure from his own party to take a tougher stance on Palestinian terrorism.

A host of Republican senators are lobbying Mr. Trump to use his meeting with Mr. Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, to demand the cessation of financial payments to the families of Palestinians who commit violence against Israelis or Americans. The senators have introduced legislation to cut off American aid if the Palestinians refuse.

“The president should raise this with Mahmoud Abbas and he should push for its passage,” Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a Republican ally of Mr. Trump’s, said in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s a good test of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership of how serious they are about wanting peace and not wanting terrorism.”

The legislation underscored the complexity of the peace effort that Mr. Trump is embarking on as he seeks to negotiate a durable resolution to the generations-old dispute between Israelis and Palestinians that, so far, has eluded every American president. During the presidential campaign and transition, Mr. Trump positioned himself as an unwavering ally of Israel but has moderated some of his positions since taking office as he courts support from Arab leaders in the Middle East.

Mr. Abbas’s visit to the White House will present Mr. Trump with the Palestinian viewpoint more directly than he has ever heard it as president. But at 82, Mr. Abbas is a weakened political figure facing public discontent and divisions at home.

His Palestinian Authority operates in the West Bank, while the more militant rival Hamas faction rules in Gaza. Despite an effort by Hamas this week to present a somewhat more moderate face to the world, the two factions remain at odds. Even if they did reconcile, Israel has refused to deal with any coalition that includes what it and the United States consider a terrorist organization.

The issue of payments to families of suicide bombers and others who commit violence has become a frequent complaint by Israel and its supporters. The Palestinian Authority spends about $315 million a year to distribute cash and benefits to 36,000 families, according to Sander Gerber, a New York hedge fund executive and fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who has studied the issue and brought his research to American lawmakers.

“The P.A. orchestrated one of the great diplomatic deceptions of the last 30 years,” Mr. Gerber said. “It’s only being exposed now. President Trump has the opportunity to let the world know that the sponsorship of terror is intolerable and will have consequences.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel raised the issue on Tuesday, making clear it will be a point of contention in any talks. “The payment of money to terrorists by a sliding scale — the more you kill the more you get — that’s the opposite of peace,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “It sends exactly the wrong message to young Palestinians. We want them to move towards peace.”

In an Op-Ed piece Monday in The New York Times, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s minister of public security and strategic affairs, called the payments “the most insidious form of encouragement to violence,” one effectively subsidized by American taxpayers and other countries that finance the Palestinian Authority.

“I think the worst kind of terrorism is the occupation”

Palestinian leaders defend the payments, saying they are meant to help widows and orphans of “martyrs,” as they call suicide bombers and others killed in attacks, as well as destitute families of prisoners, not to promote terrorism. They say Israel effectively subsidizes violence by encouraging settlers in the occupied West Bank. “I think the worst kind of terrorism is the occupation,” Jibril Rajoub, a top Palestinian official, said in an interview during a recent trip to Washington.

But Mr. Rajoub also signaled that Palestinian leaders would be willing to reconsider the payments as part of a broader negotiation. “We will discuss everything with an open mind,” he said.

The legislation sponsored by Mr. Cotton and other Republican senators like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida is named the Taylor Force Act after an American graduate student who was killed while visiting Israel last year.

Mr. Force, 28, was a combat veteran studying at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt when he joined other students on a March 2016 trip to Israel to learn about global entrepreneurship. He was stabbed by a Palestinian member of Hamas on a coastal promenade near Tel Aviv. His family has been working with American lawmakers like Mr. Cotton to curb the practice of financial payments to relatives of such attackers.

Khaled Elgindy, a former adviser to the Palestinian leadership on negotiations with Israel, and now a scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said the bill reflected a typically one-sided view of the conflict by American lawmakers of both parties. “Congress’s role on this issue does not have a strong track record on being objective,” he said. “There isn’t really a fair or even honest hearing of the issue in Congress.”

On Tuesday, Israel celebrated its 69th independence day, and the White House hosted a reception to reinforce its support for an ally.

“If the world knows nothing else, the world will know this: America stands with Israel,” Vice President Mike Pence told guests. “President Trump stands with Israel for the same reason that every freedom-loving American stands with Israel — because her cause is our cause. Her values are our values. And her fight is our fight.”



Abbas hails Trump’s ‘wisdom’ in DC press conference with the US leader

By Ma’an news
May 03/04, 2017

WASHINGTON — During a press conference with United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday in Washington, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he trusted the American head of state’s “courageous stewardship” and “wisdom” to achieve a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, while Trump hailed the security coordination between Abbas’ Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel, saying that they “work together beautifully.”

Despite Palestinian officials’ expressed optimism regarding a relationship with the new American president, Trump has come forward as a vocal supporter of Israel, made the moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem a centerpiece in his presidential campaign promises, and was quick to express his opposition to a UN Security Council resolution that harshly condemned illegal settlements.

However, Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to bring about a peace deal between Israel and the PNA, while documents released by Foreign Policy magazine late last month showed that Trump’s 2018 budget would see a 4.5 percent increase in US foreign aid to the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.

The meeting between the Palestinian and US leader comes a day after US National Security Adviser HR McMaster praised Trump’s “disruptive” style of governance, Israeli news outlet Ynet reported.

“The president is not a super-patient man,” McMaster said. “Some people have described him as disruptive. They’re right. And this is good; good because we can no longer afford to invest in policies that do not advance the interests and values of the United States and our allies.”

We will get it done’

During the press conference, which took place ahead of a much anticipated meeting between the two leaders, Trump reiterated his stated goal to bring about a peace agreement.

“Mr. President, you signed your name to the first Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, you remember that well, right?” Trump asked Abbas at the press conference, in reference to the 1993 Oslo Accords.

“I want to support you in being the Palestinian leader who signs his name to the final and most important peace agreement that brings safety, stability prosperity to both peoples and to the region.”

“We will get it done. We will be working so hard to get it done,” Trump emphasized later. “I will do whatever is necessary to facilitate the agreement, to mediate, to arbitrate, anything they’d like to do, but I would love to be a mediator, or an arbitrator, or a facilitator, and we will get this done.”

However, Trump also repeated his belief that any agreement between Palestinian and Israeli officials “cannot be imposed by the United States or by any other nation.”

Trump made no mention of any specific points that could be included in such a peace deal, and at no point during the press conference spoke of either a one- or two-state solution — maintaining his elusiveness on the matter months after a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he said he could “live with either” a one- or two-state solution, in a significant departure from the US’ publicly held position in favor of a two-state solution to the conflict.

Abbas to Trump: ‘With you, we have hope’

Abbas, meanwhile, reiterated his support for a two-state solution along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, arguing that a “comprehensive and just peace” between Israelis and Palestinians would have positive repercussions across the Middle East.

“It’s about time for Israel to end its occupation of our people and of our land after 50 years,” Abbas said, referring only to the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in 1967. “We aspire to and want to obtain our freedom, our dignity, and our right to self-determination, and we also want Israel to recognize the Palestinian state, just as the Palestinian people recognize the state of Israel.”

Abbas emphatically expressed his appreciation of Trump’s interest in obtaining an Israeli-Palestinian deal.

“We believe that we are capable and able to be successful in our efforts, because Mr. President, you have the determination and you have the desire to see it come to fruition and to see this succeed,” Abbas told Trump in Arabic.

“I believe that we are capable under your leadership, your courageous stewardship, and your wisdom, as well as with your great negotiation skills, with the grace of God, and with all of your efforts, of being true partners to you to bring about a historic peace treaty.”

Abbas went on to briefly address Trump in English, telling the US leader: “Now, Mr. President, with you we have hope.”


The words are better than the looks: joint press conference, Ma’an Images

Abbas alluded to Israel’s illegal settlement expansion, by saying that “no unilateral steps should be taken ahead of an agreement and discussions on the issues.”

Abbas also mentioned in passing the importance of resolving the issues of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, hundreds of whom have been staging a hunger strike in past weeks; and of Palestinian refugees whose ancestors fled what is now recognized as the state of Israel, although he did not specify how their right of return could be implemented as part of a two-state solution.

In comments on Tuesday prior to the press conference with Trump, Abbas had claimed that a one-state solution would only lead Israeli authorities to apply two different systems of governance between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, increasing “racism and discrimination.”

While the PNA and members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, a growing number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace given the existing political context, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

We are going to build our homeland brick by brick, step by step, until we create the state of Palestine

During his Tuesday statements, Abbas said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — which has been ongoing for some 70 years — would not be solved “in a day or two.”

“I am not going to sell you illusions, but I will say that we are going to build our homeland brick by brick, step by step, until we create the state of Palestine,” Abbas said.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Trump candidly brought up his reaction to learning more about the PA’s contested and controversial security coordination with Israel since he came to office in January.

“They get along unbelievably well. I’ve had meetings, and at these meetings I was actually very impressed and somewhat surprised by how well they get along,” Trump said. “They work together beautifully.”

The Fatah-dominated PNA and Israeli forces have worked in coordination since the 1993 Oslo Accords, which planned for a gradual power transfer of the occupied West Bank from Israeli forces to the PNA over the course of five years. More than 20 years on, however, any transfer of power has yet to take place.

Critics have called security coordination a “revolving door policy” funnelling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons through politically motivated arrests, while the Hamas movement and other Palestinian groups have repeatedly accused the PA of aligning with Israel’s goals in the occupied West Bank.

While the PNA has repeatedly threatened to put an end to the security coordination with Israel over the years, a report released last year by Israeli newspaper Haaretz claimed that Palestinian security forces had carried out 40 percent of detentions of “suspected terrorists” in the occupied West Bank in previous months.

During the press conference, Trump called on Palestinian leaders to speak in a “unified voice” against “incitement to violence” against Israelis.

“There is such hatred, but hopefully there won’t be such hatred for very long,” Trump said. “All children of God must be taught to value and respect human life and condemn all of those who target the innocent.”

Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, have routinely accused Palestinian authorities of sowing incitement against Israel among Palestinian youth, while affirming that Israel, which has mandatory military service for most of its citizens, teaches its younger generations peace.

Palestinians, meanwhile, have pointed to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel’s decades-long military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon as being the main factors leading Palestinians to commit violent acts.

“I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren in a culture of peace, and that we are endeavoring to bring about security, freedom, and peace for our children to live like other children in the world, alongside Israeli children in peace, freedom and security,” Abbas said.



Abbas tells US Jewish leaders meeting with Trump was ‘good’

PNA president also tells reporters he didn’t discuss specifics of peace negotiations with US president

By Eric Cortelessa, Times of Israel
May 04, 2017

WASHINGTON — After his first face-to-face meeting with US President Donald Trump, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas conveyed a sense of optimism to hundreds American Jewish leaders Wednesday night, according to several attendees.

Also on Wednesday evening, Abbas told reporters that he and Trump did not discuss details, but the meeting left him hopeful. “So far we didn’t talk about a mechanism, but the contacts between us and the Americans began and will continue,” he said.

Speaking to Jewish leaders gathered in the grand ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Washington, Abbas said he had a “good meeting” with Trump and his delegation, as the new administration seeks to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“My sense from hearing him and seeing him is that he felt good about today’s interaction,” said Susie Gelman, chair of the Israel Policy Forum, said after hearing Abbas. “I definitely think he conveyed a positive mood about the day and the importance that this administration is placing on the issue.”

“He definitely projected some optimism — that was clear — and a sense of hopefulness,” she added.

Earlier in the day, during a joint statement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Trump was unequivocal in expressing his belief that an accord could be reached under his tutelage.

“We will get it done,” he said to Abbas. “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.”

In front of a crowd of hundreds Wednesday night — which included members from a diverse array of Jewish organizations from across the political spectrum — Abbas emphasized that the Palestinians desire peace.

He reiterated his call for a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

He did not mention the so-called right of return for refugees, which Israel considers a nonstarter and argues would effectively spell an end to the Jewish state.

Abbas, 82, publicly mentioned the refugee matter to Trump, saying he believed it was possible to “solve the issue of the refugees and the issue of the prisoners, according to the terms of international law.”

Some analysts present at the reception maintained Trump’s push to renew Israeli-Palestinian negotiations has taken Abbas pleasantly by surprise and may have given him a political lifeline back home.

“When Trump first came to office, the Palestinians were pretty despondent. I was in Ramallah the first week of the Trump presidency and PA officials were expecting the worst,” Michael Koplow, policy director for the Israel Policy Forum, told The Times of Israel.

“Now, just over 100 days in, they find themselves in a remarkable position in that Abbas has already been to the White House and sat in the Oval Office with Trump,” he added. “The Palestinians all of a sudden sense an opportunity that they in their wildest dreams didn’t imagine they’d have with this president.”

AP contributed to this report.



Trump Deletes Tweet Saying It Was ‘An Honour’ to Meet With Abbas

The tweet, posted on the president’s personal account shortly after the White House meeting, was deleted after it has been shared by thousands

By Amir Tibon, Haaretz
May 04, 2017

A tweet posted on U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal account on Wednesday saying it was “an honour” to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was removed a day later.

The tweet, posted shortly after the two leaders met at the White House, said Trump was hoping to get “something terrific” agreed between Israel and the Palestinians.

The tweet disappeared on Wednesday after it was retweeted thousands of times. Links to it were broken, and there was no sign of it on his timeline.

The deleted tweet included a two-minute video compilation from Trump and Abbas’ meeting on Wednesday, including a positive statement about the peace process made by the president and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. It also included a warm handshake between the two leaders.

The tweet was posted as Abbas was meeting with Tillerson at the hotel where the Palestinian delegation is staying in downtown Washington. Trump has made it a habit to tweet after meeting foreign leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

It’s unclear why Trump deleted the tweet. A similar post on Trump’s Facebook page has not been removed.

It was a great honor to welcome President Abbas to The White House today. We’re hoping for a great agreement between the Palestinians and Israel that allows both peoples to live in safety and in peace.

Mr. President, with you, we have hope.”

So said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his joint press conference at the White House on Wednesday. As with so much in the Donald Trump era, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

Hope? Trump’s Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, believes West Bank Palestinians — who live under Israeli control without citizenship, free movement, due process or the right to vote for the government that controls their lives — already enjoy all the freedoms they deserve. In a West Bank settlement, a building built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land bears his name.

Trump’s other key Israel advisers — Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner — have deep experience in the most hawkish corner of the American Jewish community but no experience whatsoever with Palestinians.

 Since January, the Israeli government has authorized roughly 6,000 new homes in West Bank settlements — further eroding the prospects for a Palestinian state — yet the Trump administration has uttered barely a word of protest. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington in February, Trump said he didn’t much care whether the Palestinians got their own state or not. And on Wednesday, moments before Abbas announced that he now has “hope,” Trump declined to publicly support a Palestinian state yet again.

We’re past tragedy. This is farce.


 

Nathan GuttmanMay 4, 2017

Since he began running for president, Trump has never, in a single public statement, acknowledged that millions of Palestinians in the West Bank live without basic rights and that millions more in the Gaza Strip suffer under a toxic combination of Hamas tyranny and Israeli blockade.

With Abbas standing nearby, he said on Wednesday that a peace agreement must bring “safety, stability, prosperity to both peoples” and allow “both peoples to live, worship, thrive and prosper in peace.” Notice the missing word? It’s freedom. Until Palestinians enjoy freedom — until they live as citizens, not colonial subjects — they will never enjoy “safety” and “prosperity,” they will never “thrive,” and they will do their best to ensure that Israelis don’t either.

But by dispensing with the language of freedom, Trump plays into Netanyahu’s hands. He perpetuates the hope, which Netanyahu has nurtured for roughly three decades, that Israel can bludgeon the Palestinians into accepting something less than a state of their own.

Netanyahu, perhaps aided by Friedman and other administration officials, is exploiting Trump’s ignorance and vanity. The only thing that Trump really knows about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that solving it would be “the all-time negotiation” and “the ultimate deal.” It would bolster his claim to being the greatest president, perhaps the greatest human, of all time.



Trump and Netanyahu Are Going To Get Jews Killed — Unless They Change Course

By Peter Beinart, Forward
January 24, 2017

If all you care about is getting a deal — if you don’t care whether it’s moral or even sustainable over the long-term — the easiest thing to do is to muscle the weaker party. Pressuring Israel to accept a Palestinian state near the 1967 lines with a capital in Jerusalem would be brutally difficult. Netanyahu and almost everyone in his government vehemently opposes the idea. And given Netanyahu’s tremendous influence in Washington, especially in Trump’s own party, he can push back. Netanyahu has, after all, been successfully stiffing American administrations since the days of George H.W. Bush.

Abbas, by contrast, comes to Trump’s negotiating table holding a pair of threes. The Palestinian Authority isn’t a government. It’s a government’s subcontractor. It picks up the garbage and catches car thieves in an archipelago of Palestinian villages and towns, surrounded by Israeli settlers and soldiers, in the West Bank. Abbas can’t even host foreign officials in his office in Ramallah without Israeli permission. Abbas doesn’t control the Gaza Strip. He lacks legitimacy among his own people because the occupation has entrenched itself on his watch. And he has barely any allies in Washington.

Abbas’ only real power is the power to stop playing ball: the power to stop policing the West Bank on Israel’s behalf and the power to begin suing Israel in international courts. But Netanyahu and Trump would likely retaliate harshly. Abbas would lose the privileges and perks upon which he and his network of family and associates rely. And many on the Israeli and American right wouldn’t even mind seeing him go.

Maybe Abbas is hoping for a miracle. Maybe he’s grateful

So Abbas is willing to come to the White House and tell Trump that he’s the Palestinians’ great hope. And he’s willing to start a fictitious “peace process” with an Israeli prime minister determined to control the West Bank and an American president who doesn’t even understand why that can’t constitute the foundation for a deal. Maybe Abbas is hoping for a miracle. Maybe he’s grateful just that Trump is talking to him at all.

At the end of the day, it’s all a masquerade. Ultimately, Abbas can’t sign a deal that leaves the Palestinians with far less than a state. Even if he did, his people wouldn’t accept it. And since it’s highly unlikely that Trump will pick a real fight with Netanyahu, Trump’s advisers will eventually realize that this is one real estate deal they can’t close. But by then, Trump’s ego will have likely moved onto other things.

The most enduring result of all this will be the public abandonment, by an American president, of the two-state model. Chalk up another win for the Israeli government and the American Jewish establishment, and a profound, perhaps existential, loss, for the dream of a democratic Jewish state.

Peter Beinart is a Forward senior columnist and contributing editor.


Trump’s Meeting With Abbas: Should We Laugh Or Cry?

By Peter Beinart
Forward
May 04, 2017

“Mr. President, with you, we have hope.” So said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his joint press conference at the White House on Wednesday. As with so much in the Donald Trump era, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

Hope? Trump’s Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, believes West Bank Palestinians — who live under Israeli control without citizenship, free movement, due process or the right to vote for the government that controls their lives — already enjoy all the freedoms they deserve. In a West Bank settlement, a building built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land bears his name.

Trump’s other key Israel advisers — Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner — have deep experience in the most hawkish corner of the American Jewish community but no experience whatsoever with Palestinians.

Since January, the Israeli government has authorized roughly 6,000 new homes in West Bank settlements — further eroding the prospects for a Palestinian state — yet the Trump administration has uttered barely a word of protest. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington in February, Trump said he didn’t much care whether the Palestinians got their own state or not. And on Wednesday, moments before Abbas announced that he now has “hope,” Trump declined to publicly support a Palestinian state yet again.

We’re past tragedy. This is farce.


Donald Trump and Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, May 3, 2017

Since he began running for president, Trump has never, in a single public statement, acknowledged that millions of Palestinians in the West Bank live without basic rights and that millions more in the Gaza Strip suffer under a toxic combination of Hamas tyranny and Israeli blockade.

With Abbas standing nearby, he said on Wednesday that a peace agreement must bring “safety, stability, prosperity to both peoples” and allow “both peoples to live, worship, thrive and prosper in peace.” Notice the missing word? It’s freedom. Until Palestinians enjoy freedom — until they live as citizens, not colonial subjects — they will never enjoy “safety” and “prosperity,” they will never “thrive,” and they will do their best to ensure that Israelis don’t either.

But by dispensing with the language of freedom, Trump plays into Netanyahu’s hands. He perpetuates the hope, which Netanyahu has nurtured for roughly three decades, that Israel can bludgeon the Palestinians into accepting something less than a state of their own.

Netanyahu, perhaps aided by Friedman and other administration officials, is exploiting Trump’s ignorance and vanity. The only thing that Trump really knows about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that solving it would be “the all-time negotiation” and “the ultimate deal.” It would bolster his claim to being the greatest president, perhaps the greatest human, of all time.

If all you care about is getting a deal — if you don’t care whether it’s moral or even sustainable over the long-term — the easiest thing to do is to muscle the weaker party. Pressuring Israel to accept a Palestinian state near the 1967 lines with a capital in Jerusalem would be brutally difficult. Netanyahu and almost everyone in his government vehemently opposes the idea. And given Netanyahu’s tremendous influence in Washington, especially in Trump’s own party, he can push back. Netanyahu has, after all, been successfully stiffing American administrations since the days of George H.W. Bush.

Abbas, by contrast, comes to Trump’s negotiating table holding a pair of threes. The Palestinian Authority isn’t a government. It’s a government’s subcontractor. It picks up the garbage and catches car thieves in an archipelago of Palestinian villages and towns, surrounded by Israeli settlers and soldiers, in the West Bank. Abbas can’t even host foreign officials in his office in Ramallah without Israeli permission. Abbas doesn’t control the Gaza Strip. He lacks legitimacy among his own people because the occupation has entrenched itself on his watch. And he has barely any allies in Washington.

Abbas’ only real power is the power to stop playing ball: the power to stop policing the West Bank on Israel’s behalf and the power to begin suing Israel in international courts. But Netanyahu and Trump would likely retaliate harshly. Abbas would lose the privileges and perks upon which he and his network of family and associates rely. And many on the Israeli and American right wouldn’t even mind seeing him go.

So Abbas is willing to come to the White House and tell Trump that he’s the Palestinians’ great hope. And he’s willing to start a fictitious “peace process” with an Israeli prime minister determined to control the West Bank and an American president who doesn’t even understand why that can’t constitute the foundation for a deal. Maybe Abbas is hoping for a miracle. Maybe he’s grateful just that Trump is talking to him at all.

At the end of the day, it’s all a masquerade. Ultimately, Abbas can’t sign a deal that leaves the Palestinians with far less than a state. Even if he did, his people wouldn’t accept it. And since it’s highly unlikely that Trump will pick a real fight with Netanyahu, Trump’s advisers will eventually realize that this is one real estate deal they can’t close. But by then, Trump’s ego will have likely moved onto other things.

The most enduring result of all this will be the public abandonment, by an American president, of the two-state model. Chalk up another win for the Israeli government and the American Jewish establishment, and a profound, perhaps existential, loss, for the dream of a democratic Jewish state.

Peter Beinart is a Forward senior columnist and contributing editor.

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