Trump to Abbas: Peace won’t come where violence ‘rewarded’
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'If Israel and the Palestinians can make peace, it can begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East'

Trump to Abbas: Peace won’t come where violence ‘rewarded’

In Bethlehem, US president seems to criticize PA's salaries for terrorists; says Palestinian leader and Netanyahu assure him they are 'ready to work toward peace in good faith'

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) and US President Donald Trump listen to anthems during a welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (THOMAS COEX / AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) and US President Donald Trump listen to anthems during a welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (THOMAS COEX / AFP)

In his first visit to the Palestinian Authority, US President Donald Trump issued implicit criticism of Palestinian funding for imprisoned terrorists, while praising the counterterrorism efforts of the PA and urging condemnation of terror attacks “in a single unified voice.”

Trump spoke alongside PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the latter’s presidential compound in Bethlehem Tuesday. The two men began their respective statements with condemnations of the apparent suicide bombing in Manchester the night before.

“Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded,” Trump said, in an apparent reference to the salaries paid by the PA to jailed Palestinian terrorists and to the families of Palestinian prisoners killed while committing terror attacks. “We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice,” he said.

Trump also promised American help to renew long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“Peace is a choice we must make each day, and the United States is here to help make that dream possible for young Jewish, Christian and Muslim children all across the region,” he said. “In so doing we will all enjoy a safer and brighter future and a safer and brighter world.”

He added that such a peace would trigger a cascade effect throughout the region: “I am truly hopeful that America can help Israel and the Palestinians forge peace and bring new hope to the region and its people. I also firmly believe that if Israel and the Palestinians can make peace, it can begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East and that will be an amazing accomplishment.”

Trump’s comments reiterated his statements Monday to Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that many Arab states seek “a much deeper path to friendship with Israel” that can only move forward when peace with the Palestinians is achieved.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)
US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

While implicitly criticizing the Palestinian Authority’s stance on terrorism, he praised Abbas, who he said had “committed to taking firm but necessary steps to fight terrorism and confront its hateful ideology.

“I am committed to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I intend to do everything I can to help them achieve that goal,” Trump said. “President Abbas assures me he is ready to work toward that goal in good faith, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the same. I look forward to working with these leaders toward a lasting peace.”

Speaking before Trump, Abbas said that the Palestinians’ “fundamental problem is with occupation and settlements and the failure of Israel to recognize the state of Palestine as we recognize it,” and not with “Judaism.”

“Once again we reassert to you our positions,” he continued: “accepting the two-state solution along the borders of 1967, a state of Palestine with a capital in East Jerusalem alongside Israel… and resolving longstanding issues based on international law and agreements… in accordance with Arab peace initiative.”

Trump arrived at the presidential palace in Bethlehem in the morning after traveling there by car from Jerusalem.

He and Abbas embraced on the red carpet at the entrance to the compound, then reviewed an honor guard of Palestinian security forces who had been trained by the United States in an ongoing effort at bolstering Palestinian governance and institutions.

Trump then shook hands with a short receiving line of religious leaders and other dignitaries.

During Trump’s visit, the families of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners protested at the nearby Manger Square, but were kept in check by Palestinian security forces. They waved photos of prisoners, including many convicted of terror attacks, who are protesting their conditions in Israeli prisons.

The group of around 70 protesters, among them children, demanded Trump intervene with Israeli authorities on behalf of the Palestinian strikers.

“Hear, hear Trump, the prisoners will not kneel,” they shouted.

The PA’s Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe told The Times of Israel, “We want Trump to intervene on the Israeli side so the demands of the prisoners can be met.”

Abbas also raised the issue in his comments alongside Trump. “I’d like to draw attention to our Palestinian hunger-strikers,” he said. “Meters from here and everywhere around Palestine, mothers suffer from being denied visits to their children. Their demands are humane and just. I demand from the Israeli government to meet these humane, legitimate demands.”

Earlier Tuesday, a senior Palestinian official said he expected Trump’s visit to result in renewed peace negotiations.

Abbas adviser Majdi Khaldi told the Voice of Palestine radio that in the short term, renewed negotiations must address the Palestinians’ economic problems that are linked to continued conflict and Israeli restrictions on trade and movement. He added that “this visit will open the way for relaunching the peace process.”

Dov Lieber and AP contributed to this report.

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