Anglican head backs Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace effort
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Anglican head backs Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace effort

Justin Welby says he will pray for US president’s success, hopes dialogue with Hamas will be possible in the future

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby holds a press conference at the Saint John Eye Hospital compound in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2017. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby holds a press conference at the Saint John Eye Hospital compound in the Christian quarter of Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2017. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)

The leader of the world’s Anglicans on Wednesday backed US President Donald Trump’s bid for fresh peace talks between Israel and Palestinians, saying “determined leadership” could tip the balance toward a resolution.

Speaking near the end of a 12-day trip to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said Trump would be “in my prayers” when he visits the region later this month and attempts to restart the moribund peace process.

“We have known from history in this region that determined leadership by the United States, together with patient working by lots of other people in the background, often unknown, can tip things very, very decisively,” he told journalists in Jerusalem.

“When he comes here my prayer for him is he will be filled with determination and courage and given gifts of wisdom that will make a difference.”

President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 4, 2017, before signing an executive order aimed at easing an IRS rule limiting political activity for churches. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 4, 2017, before signing an executive order aimed at easing an IRS rule limiting political activity for churches. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump is expected to arrive in Israel on May 22 as part of his first foreign tour since his inauguration, though the date has not yet been officially confirmed.

The self-styled deal-maker spoke last week in Washington with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of his desire to seal the “toughest deal” of them all.

Welby said his trip had been about learning and understanding the complexities of the situation in the Middle East.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas meets with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in the West Bank City Ramallah on May 8, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas meets with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in the West Bank City Ramallah on May 8, 2017. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

He also sought to clarify comments that had caused some criticism in the Israeli media regarding dialogue with Hamas.

The Islamist movement, which runs Gaza, is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the US and the EU, and both sides reject direct negotiations.

Welby did not meet with Hamas officials during a trip to the Gaza Strip, but said there may be a time when it is necessary to speak to them directly.

President Reuven Rivlin meets Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the presidential compound in Jerusalem on May 9, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON)
President Reuven Rivlin meets Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the presidential compound in Jerusalem on May 9, 2017. (AFP/Gali Tibbon)

Hamas has been seeking to improve its reputation in the international community, including releasing a new policy document last week that was interpreted in some quarters as somewhat easing its stance on Israel even though it reiterated the imperative to destroy the Jewish state.

Israel dismissed the new program of the Islamist terror group, with which it has fought three wars since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, as window dressing.

“You look round some of the conflicts around the world in the past and you see people who have started in one place and have ended in a very, very different place and deeply committed to peace,” Welby said Wednesday.

He added that any such agreement would be predicated on Hamas saying it is committed to non-violence and to a political process.

Welby said that militant groups “can over time — at the right time when the politicians decide, if they are convinced that it is authentic — be brought to a place where it is good to talk to them.

“I don’t know when it is. It certainly doesn’t look like now.”

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