US President Donald Trump reportedly offered to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later this month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in an attempt to rectify their troubled ties.
According to Hadashot TV news, Trump is seeking to re-establish ties with the Palestinians, who have blackballed US peace efforts for months and are largely boycotting the administration amid anger over Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
However, Abbas responded that he would only accept such a meeting in return for significant diplomatic gestures that would renew trust between the sides.
In addition, he reportedly demanded that Trump fire his Middle East negotiating team, including envoy Jason Greenblatt and the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
The offer and response were reportedly conveyed via third parties. Abbas’s response amounted to a rejection of the US overture, the TV report said.
According to the same report, the Trump administration has indicated that its long-gestating peace proposal — which Trump has touted as the “deal of the century” but which Palestinians have said will only be an attempt to destroy their aspirations of statehood — will not be unveiled until after the November midterm elections in the US, and possibly not until well into 2019.
In the wake of the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December and the US embassy’s relocation to the capital in May, PA officials have been refusing to meet with members of Trump’s peace team, declaring them unfit to act as honest mediators in negotiations.
Washington’s decision to halt all financial aid to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees has further infuriated the PA leadership. Abbas’s spokesman has said Washington’s latest decision “promotes terrorism” and is a violation of UN resolutions.
Previous US peace plans have included proposals and maps dealing with potential land swaps, security guarantees, and other issues, but have left out thornier issues like Jerusalem and the Palestinian demand for refugees and their descendants to return to pre-1967 Israel.
It’s not clear if the US plan will address those sticking points. Trump has said in the past that his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital took the issue “off the table.” Some reports have indicated the US may offer Jerusalem suburb Abu Dis as a capital instead of East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians demand be the seat of their future state.
In June, Haaretz reported that Arab leaders had warned the White House that the plan’s alleged failure to recognize East Jerusalem and the Old City as the capital of a future Palestinian state or address the issue of Palestinian refugees would enrage the region’s Arab population.