Abbas tells Trump he’s ‘ready to begin negotiating immediately’ with Israel
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Abbas tells Trump he’s ‘ready to begin negotiating immediately’ with Israel

US president and Palestinian leader agree to ‘continue discussions’ on PA’s payments to families of terrorists, White House says

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian Authority President 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 Authority President 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)

WASHINGTON — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is prepared to begin immediate peace negotiations with Israel, the White House said Tuesday, hours after US President Donald Trump concluded his historic visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Trump met Tuesday morning with the 82-year-old Abbas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

“The two leaders discussed ways to advance negotiations and considered how Arab states might support those negotiations,” a White House readout said. “President Abbas noted that he was ready to begin negotiating immediately.”

In an unofficial translation of Abbas’s remarks to Trump during their meeting, it was not immediately evident he expressed such readiness.

The White House said Trump and Abbas also agreed to “continue their discussions on the issue of payments to Palestinian prisoners and the need to improve the Palestinian economy.”

Earlier Tuesday, Trump delivered an implicit criticism — during a press appearance with Abbas — of the PA’s practice of paying salaries to jailed Palestinian terrorists and the families of Palestinian prisoners killed while committing terror attacks.

“Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded,” Trump said. “We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice,” he said.

The president faced much pressure over the issue before his trip, with Republican members of Congress insisting he demand this practice end.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a forceful plea in his speech at the Israel Museum earlier — where Trump also delivered his own remarks — and invoked Monday’s terror attack in Manchester to underline his point.

US president Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after giving final remarks at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before Trump departure, on May 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
US president Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after giving final remarks at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem before Trump departure, on May 23, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Standing next to you, President Abbas condemned the horrific attack in Manchester,” Netanyahu said, referring to their press statements. “I hope this heralds a real change, because if the attacker had been Palestinian and the victims had been Israeli children, the suicide bomber’s family would have received a stipend from the Palestinian Authority.”

“That’s Palestinian law,” Netanyahu added. “That law must be changed.”

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

During their joint press conference, Trump emphasized his desire to succeed where his predecessors had failed and strike an accord between the parties.

“I am truly hopeful that America can help Israel and the Palestinians forge peace and bring new hope to the region and its people,” he said.

The readout of their bilateral meeting said that the president “again stressed his belief that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is possible.”

Both leaders, it also said, “reaffirmed their commitment to reach for a genuine and lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

Trump’s first leg of his first foreign trip was in Riyadh where he met with Arab and Muslim leaders to discuss countering violent extremism and renewing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

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