White House: Trump to push Palestinian ‘self-determination’ on Mideast trip
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He will also 'reaffirm America's unshakable bond to the Jewish state'

White House: Trump to push Palestinian ‘self-determination’ on Mideast trip

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster says the US president will demonstrate his hopes for 'a just and lasting peace'

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Friday, May 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, Friday, May 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump will work toward a “just and lasting peace” between Israel and the Palestinians, including the Palestinian aspiration of “self-determination,” on his upcoming trip to the region, the White House said Friday.

US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters during the daily press briefing that Trump will meet again with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, where the president will “express his desire for dignity and self-determination for the Palestinians.”

McMaster also said that Trump’s meetings with Israeli leaders would look to cement stronger ties between the two allies.

“With President (Reuven) Rivlin and Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu, he will reaffirm America’s unshakable bond to the Jewish state,” he said.

Throughout the trip, Trump will “demonstrate his hopes for a just and lasting peace,” he added.

Trump’s visit to Israel, which was officially announced last week, will take place from May 22 to 23 — just before Jerusalem Day — after he stops in Saudi Arabia and before he goes on to the Vatican. He will also travel to Brussels and Sicily for NATO and G7 summits on the final leg of his first foreign trip.

There has been speculation since Trump’s travel plans were announced that he would seek to facilitate a trilateral meeting with Netanyahu and Abbas.

When McMaster was asked if such a plan was in the works, he demurred. “It will be up to the president and those leaders,” he said.

Trump has already hosted both Netanyahu and Abbas at the White House, expressing optimism in his ability to succeed in brokering a peace deal where his three immediate predecessors have failed.

“It’s something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years,” Trump told Abbas during their joint press conference. “We need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing. We believe you’re willing. And if you are willing, we are going to make a deal.”

US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

Abbas reportedly showed Trump maps drawn up as part of a former Israeli prime minister’s 2008 peace proposal, which Abbas chose not to accept at the time, during his visit to the White House last week.

He also reportedly told Trump that his negotiations with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, which fell apart without an agreement, should form the basis of any future peace talks.

The PA leader ultimately balked at Olmert’s 2008 offer, and later cited the then-prime minister’s legal troubles at the time as his primary reason. Olmert had announced that he planned to resign in order to fight corruption allegations, and Abbas doubted the Israeli had the political clout to see the deal through. Olmert is currently serving a 26-month jail sentence on various corruption charges.

After last week’s summit between Trump and Abbas, Likud Minister Ze’ev Elkin said that although it was likely peace talks would resume, it was unlikely a deal would be reached soon.

Elkin noted Abbas’s intransigence in 2009 and 2010, during which Israel, under PM Netanyahu, instituted a ten-month settlement freeze that the PA president had demanded.

At that time, talks also broke down with the Palestinians arguing that the construction halt was merely partial as it did not include a suspension on building in East Jerusalem.

The Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip, was quick to reject any proposed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, stating that Abbas had no mandate.

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