US President Donald Trump asked Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to stop payments to families of Palestinians imprisoned on terror-related charges during their meeting at the White House on Wednesday.
At his daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said “The president raised concerns about the payments to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have committed acts of terror and to their families and emphasized the need to resolve this issue.”
He added that during their meeting and subsequent working-lunch, the two leaders discussed ways to advance the peace process, prevent incitement in Palestinian media outlets, and strengthen the Palestinian economy.
Last week, Channel 2 news quoted PA Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe saying that Abbas “outright rejects” the Israeli demands to halt its payments to prisoners.
Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of terror offenses and crimes. Around 500 are being held under Israel’s system of administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the salaries paid to imprisoned terrorists by the PA constitute a major obstacle to peace.
For his part, Abbas Wednesday called on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and recognize an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines during his joint press conference with Trump.
“It’s about time for Israel to end its occupation of our people and of our land after 50 years; we are the only remaining people in the world that are living under occupation,” he said. “We are aspiring and want to achieve our freedom, dignity and our right to self-determination of our own nation.”
Trump was unabashedly optimistic that he could help Israelis and Palestinians resolve their conflict during his first face-to-face meeting with Abbas. “We will get it done. 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.”
Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.