Trump Meets Abbas, Promises to Get a Peace Deal and Prove Skeptics Wrong

While not mentioning two-state solution, Trump promises to do 'whatever is necessary' to help reach a peace agreement, adding that it cannot be imposed on the two sides

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017.
President Donald Trump, accompanied by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Evan Vucci/AP

LIVE UPDATES: Trump and Abbas meet for first time in D.C.

President Trump hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the White House on Wednesday, and promised to do "whatever is necessary" to help reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Trump complimented Abbas for denouncing terrorism, praised his role in the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, and said he wanted to support Abbas "in being the Palestinian leader who signed the final peace agreement" with Israel.

Upon greeting Abbas at the entrance to the White House, Trump said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been "going on for a long time," and that he hoped "something terrific" could be reached between the two sides. When the two leaders delivered a joint statement in front of the cameras, Trump recalled how Abbas signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn 24 years ago, "an agreement which laid the foundations for peace."

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Trump then added that an agreement cannot be imposed on the two sides by any foreign country, including the United States, and would have to be negotiated directly between them. The United States under his leadership, however, would "do whatever is necessary" and act as a "mediator, arbitrator and facilitator" to help the two sides in their negotiations.

Trump praised Abbas for opposing violence and terrorism, and said that he was "very impressed" to learn about the security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. "I applaud them," he said, "they get unbelievably well together. They work together beautifully." He then called on Abbas to act against incitement and hatred, saying that "hopefully there won't be such hatred for very long."

<< Watch the full press conference or read the entire transcript >>

Trump emphasized that his administration wants to advance the Palestinian economy and "help unlock the potential of the Palestinian people" through job creation and private initiatives. He said that economic activity, the rule of law and condemnation of violence were all critical in order to make progress towards peace.

After Trump's remarks, Abbas spoke for more ten minutes and repeated his positions on the peace process and the two-state solution. While Trump did not mention that specific formula, Abbas made sure to emphasize that it was the only option for the Palestinians. Abbas also spoke positively about the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, in which all Arab states offered peace to Israel after the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Abbas said that it was time for Israel "to end the occupation of our people" and that Trump's presidency represented a historic opportunity for peace between the two peoples. Abbas ended his remarks by addressing Trump directly and telling him in English - "with you Mr. President, we now have hope." Trump, on his part, said that he was looking forward to welcoming Abbas back to the White House in order to work towards a final status agreement between the two sides.

All my life I've heard this is the toughest deal to make," Trump said, and then addressed Abbas and added - "let's prove them wrong." Following that, the two leaders left for a joint luncheon.

During their joint lunch, the two leaders sat with their most senior advisers to further discuss the peace process. Vice President Mike Pence reminded Abbas that he had met with him a few years ago: "my family had the privilege of your hospitality during a Christmas visit just a few short years ago." Secretary of State Rex Tillerson added that "there are a number of positive conditions in place, and I know under your leadership that we hope good things will happen."

White House Spokesman Sean Spicer said at his daily press briefing Wednesday that at their meeting, Trump and Abbas discussed ways to advance the peace process and steps to strengthen the Palestinian economy.

Spicer added that Trump raised with Abbas the issue of payments to families of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails, and asked the Palestinian leader to resolve it.