Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau on Sunday declared his support for US President Donald Trump’s efforts to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, ahead of a visit to the region by the American leader.
“The president wants to examine ways to renew the peace process with the Palestinians. I share this desire and the citizens of Israel share this desire; we want peace,” he said.
Netanyahu told his ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that Israel would be “honored” to host Trump on his first visit abroad as president later this month.
“The president will be warmly welcomed here as a great friend of Israel and as a worthy leader of our great ally, the United States,” the prime minister said.
Trump will make a one-day visit to Israel on May 22 along with his wife, Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, the two latter of whom also serve as his advisers. He will stop first in Saudi Arabia, where he has said he will meet leaders from the Muslim world to discuss fighting terrorism.
Trump has pledged to work for a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and there has been speculation that he will seek to convene a Middle East summit soon after this month’s trip. Israel’s Channel 2 reported Friday that the administration has also expressed interest in a possible Israel-Jordan-Saudi Arabia train route, and in pushing a much-discussed Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project.
During the Israel leg of his trip, Trump will meet with Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He is not expected in Ramallah but may visit Bethlehem.
When Abbas visited the White House last week, Trump expressed optimism in his ability to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and praised Abbas for speaking out against Islamic State terrorism. Abbas said in his remarks that young Palestinians are being educated to be peace-loving, a claim that was derided by Netanyahu.
“We will get it done,” Trump promised of a peace accord, during a joint press conference with 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.”
The president, who has referred to a Mideast peace agreement as “the ultimate deal,” said he would be willing to play whatever role was needed to strike the coveted accord.
During last Wednesday’s press conference, Abbas sought to assuage growing concern in Washington over the prevalence of PA-sponsored incitement against Israel.
“We are raising our youth, our children and our grandchildren on a culture of peace,” he told Trump.
Israel has accused the Palestinians, including Abbas’s Fatah party, of fanning hatred on social media and calling for violence against Israelis.
While Trump made a point of praising Abbas for speaking out against Islamic State terrorism, he said that “there cannot be lasting peace unless the Palestinian leaders speak in a unified voice against incitement to violence and hate.”
The White House later said Trump told Abbas during their meeting to stop incitement, crack down on terrorism, and “resolve” the PA’s policy of providing social welfare payments to the families of terrorists jailed for attacking or killing Israelis.
Netanyahu sharply criticized Abbas’s remarks on fostering a culture of peace, saying the comment was “unfortunately not true.”
On Sunday, he repeated his criticism of Abbas’s assertion that the Palestinian Authority desires and is educating for peace.
“I heard [Abbas], who praises terrorists and pays them a salary based on the severity of murders they’ve committed in Israel, say that Palestinians are educating their children toward peace,” he told his ministers. “I regret that this is simply incorrect.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.