Trump to Express Support for Palestinian 'Self-determination' in Israel Visit

Senior White House official echoes Palestinian president, saying Trump will express his support for Palestinian 'dignity' and 'right to self-determination'

U.S. President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands in the Roosevelt Room during a joint statement at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands in the Roosevelt Room during a joint statement at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2017 NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP

WASHINGTON - During his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in ten days, President Donald Trump will express his support for the Palestinian people's aspirations for "self-determination."

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National security adviser H.R. McMaster at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 12, 2017.
KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS

Trump's National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster, used that phrase during a rare appearance at the White House's daily press briefing on Friday, seemingly echoing Palestinian President Abbas' comments at the White House. This is the most senior official in the administration to have clearly stated this as an objective.

McMaster also said Trump will use the trip to promote a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and to reaffirm America's "unshakable bond" with Israel.

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In reply to a question on whether a trilateral meeting between Trump, Abbas and Netanyahu would take place during the visit, McMaster said it is "up to the president and those leaders."

Ever since Trump entered the White House, his administration has consistently expressed its support and desire for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but has not explicitly said it will support the creation of a Palestinian state, or the two-state solution.

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During Trump's meeting with Abbas in the White House last week, it was the Palestinian President who used this expression, by telling Trump in front of the cameras that "we are aspiring and want to achieve our freedom, our dignity, and our right to self-determination. And we also want for Israel to recognize the Palestinian state just as the Palestinian people recognize the state of Israel."

Arab world

Trump will also focus on "what unites us" during visit to Saudi Arabia, working to encourage Muslim partners to promote peace and confront violence.

Trump, McMaster said, would work with Arab and Muslim partners to confront terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaida, but also to deal with Iran and Syria's Assad.

"He will lead the first steps towards a strong partnership with the Muslim world," he said, adding "We expect our allies to take a strong stand against those who have a perverted interpretation of their religion." It was important to "promote peaceful reading of Islam," he said.

McMaster said that for the first time, the visit would see the president "visit the holy sites of all three religions on one trip." McMaster said Trump's "desire is to unite people of all faiths around a common vision of peace security and prosperity."

When asked about Trump's foreign policy, McMaster said that the president understands that America first does not mean America alone," a reference to Trump's slogan.