As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas prepares to visit Washington to meet President Donald Trump, a top member of his administration lashed out at Trump’s team, saying the White House is inhabited by Israeli settlers.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, said Saturday that the Israeli right has penetrated the American administration.
“We used to say there were settlers in the Israeli coalition borne of the far right that detests Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. But today we say there are settlers inside the White House,” she said, in comments reported by the Ynet news website.
“The administration has adopted the extreme Israeli position to the right of (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and which supports the settlements.”
An exact date for the Trump-Abbas meeting has not been set, but a Palestinian advance team is reportedly expected to visit Washington DC later this month.
Trump spoke to Abbas for the first time over the phone in March and invited the Palestinian leader to the White House.
Abbas later told US special peace envoy Jason Greenblatt he believed a “historic” peace deal with Israel was possible with Trump in office.
Greenblatt told Arab foreign ministers in late March that Trump was committed to reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians that would “reverberate” throughout the Middle East and the world.
Greenblatt has made two trips to the region since Trump assumed the presidency in January in an effort to jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
During those visits, he met with multiple stakeholders in the conflict, including Netanyahu and Abbas. Part of the goal of those meetings was to reach an agreement that would limit Israel’s settlement construction in the West Bank.
The Trump administration — which has held the position that settlements are not “an impediment to peace,” but at the same time do not “help to advance peace” — expressed approval of an Israeli decision to curtail settlement building to within existing settlement boundaries or, in most cases, adjacent to them.
“This is a very friendly administration and we need to be considerate of the president’s requests,” Netanyahu told the security cabinet in announcing the move.
The announcement came hours after the security cabinet approved the establishment of a new settlement in the West Bank for families evicted from the recently razed Amona outpost.
The new settlement will be Israel’s first in some 25 years. While Israel stopped establishing new settlements in the early 1990s — after the 1993 Oslo Accords were signed — some outposts constructed since have been given retroactive approval, and existing settlements have expanded their geographical parameters.