WASHINGTON — After his first face-to-face meeting with US President Donald Trump, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas conveyed a sense of optimism to hundreds American Jewish leaders Wednesday night, according to several attendees.
Also Wednesday evening, Abbas told reporters that he and Trump did not discuss details, but the meeting left him hopeful . “So far we didn’t talk about a mechanism, but the contacts between us and the Americans began and will continue,” he said.
Speaking to Jewish leaders gathered in the grand ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Washington, Abbas said he had a “good meeting” with Trump and his delegation, as the new administration seeks to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
“My sense from hearing him and seeing him is that he felt good about today’s interaction,” said Susie Gelman, chair of the Israel Policy Forum, said after hearing Abbas. “I definitely think he conveyed a positive mood about the day and the importance that this administration is placing on the issue.”
“He definitely projected some optimism — that was clear — and a sense of hopefulness,” she added.
Earlier in the day, during a joint statement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Trump was unequivocal in expressing his belief that an accord could be reached under his tutelage.
“We will get it done,” he said to 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.”
In front of a crowd of hundreds Wednesday night — which included members from a diverse array of Jewish organizations from across the political spectrum — Abbas emphasized that the Palestinians desire peace.
He reiterated his call for a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
He did not mention the so-called right of return for refugees, which Israel considers a nonstarter and argues would effectively spell an end to the Jewish state.
Abbas, 82, publicly mentioned the refugee matter to Trump, saying he believed it was possible to “solve the issue of the refugees and the issue of the prisoners, according to the terms of international law.”
Some analysts present at the reception maintained Trump’s push to renew Israeli-Palestinian negotiations has taken Abbas pleasantly by surprise and may have given him a political lifeline back home.
“When Trump first came to office, the Palestinians were pretty despondent. I was in Ramallah the first week of the Trump presidency and PA officials were expecting the worst,” Michael Koplow, policy director for the Israel Policy Forum, told The Times of Israel.
“Now, just over 100 days in, they find themselves in a remarkable position in that Abbas has already been to the White House and sat in the Oval Office with Trump,” he added. “The Palestinians all the sudden sense an opportunity that they in their wildest dreams didn’t imagine they’d have with this president.”
AP contributed to this report.