Abbas: I Met Trump's Envoys 20 Times and Still Don't Understand Their Peace Plan

Palestinian president tells Israeli lawmakers 'there's chaos in the administration,' says envoys expressed support for two-state solution and oppose settlements but won't say so publicly to Netanyahu

President Donald Trump with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the White House, May 3, 2017.
President Donald Trump with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the White House, May 3, 2017. Evan Vucci/AP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told a delegation from the left-wing Meretz party that he does not understand the conduct of the Trump administration when it comes to the Israel-Palestinian issue.

Abbas noted that in meetings with envoys representing U.S. President Donald Trump in recent weeks, he heard that they support a two-state solution to the conflict and a settlement construction freeze. However, the Palestinian president said they are refusing to say so publicly and to present Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with such a position as an American demand.

"I have met with Trump envoys about 20 times since the beginning of his term as president of the United States," Abbas said according to notes taken by some of the meeting's participants. "Every time they repeatedly stressed to me how much they believe and are committed to a two-state solution and a halt to construction in the settlements. I have pleaded with them to say the same thing to Netanyahu, but they refrained. They said they would consider it but then they didn't get back to me."

The Palestinian president said he doesn't know to what extent this will be reflected in the results of the upcoming visit of an American delegation, part of Trump's effort to restart the peace process. The representatives, led by senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner, will visit Jerusalem and Ramallah on Thursday, after a lengthy tour of the region.

Abbas told the Israeli group that he intends to again ask Kushner to have the White House express its commitment to a two-state solution and to demand a halt to settlement construction.

"I can’t understand how they are conducting themselves with us," he said, according to one participant's notes, adding that "Inside [Trump's] country, there is chaos in the administration."

The meeting, which took place at Abbas' Muqata headquarters in Ramallah, was attended by Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon, lawmaker Esawi Freige, party general secretary Mossi Raz and Galon's diplomatic adviser, former Ambassador Ilan Baruch.

One of the main topics at the meeting was Abbas' decision to halt security coordination with Israel during the Temple Mount crisis. Abbas noted that the Palestinian Authority recently approached Israel, offering to resume some kind of security cooperation, but Israel has not responded to the offer. 

The Prime Minister's Office said Abbas' claims on the security coordination were false. 

The Palestinian president noted that despite the suspension in security coordination, he has instructed Palestinian security forces to step up oversight of individuals who might be liable to carry out terrorist attacks on the Mount, and did so to prevent another flare-up that would turn the conflict into a religious one. Abbas also said that Palestinian security forces brief the Trump administration on all the steps they take in the war against terrorism.

"The Israeli security establishment is always saying that [I am] a partner," he said. "And that's contrary to what the Israeli prime minister says. We are working better with the Israeli security establishment than with Israeli prime minister."

In the course of the meeting, Galon expressed her concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, which has deteriorated further following the Palestinian Authority's decision to cut payments for electricity supplied to the Hamas-controlled territory. "I don't support Hamas or the government that it has established, but the choice of punishing the residents of Gaza by cutting off electricity is not a correct step and is not legitimate at this time," Galon said. "Another way needs to be found to deprive Hamas of its power without harming  civilians."

Abbas responded that as long as Hamas does not dismantle the independent government that it has established in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority will continue to cut funds that it transfers to the territory. "We perceive Hamas' action as an attempt to divide the West Bank and Gaza, and that's a step that is an expression of political no-confidence in the Palestinian leadership, more than a moral or diplomatic step," Abbas said.

The Palestinian president also commented that he wants the Arab population of Israel to be part of Israeli society and to share its pain.