After Brief Bethlehem Visit, Some Palestinians Wish Trump Hadn't Come at All

Palestinian media portrays Abbas as counting down the seconds until his presidential obligations toward the visiting dignitary are over

Palestinian protesters hold placards against Trump while they demonstrate in support of prisoners in Israeli jails at Hawara checkpoint in the West Bank, May 23, 2017.
JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP

As U.S. President Donald Trump concluded his brief visit to the Palestinian Territories on Tuesday, the Palestinian leadership seemed more concerned with mitigating the message imparted upon him by the Israelis rather than a constructive outline for future negotiations.

“Israeli officials have failed in influencing President Trump,” read a statement by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry disseminated on social media as Trump left Bethlehem. “What he says and does is more important than the Israeli positions he hears regarding Jerusalem and the final status issues.”

In the Palestinian media, some were more cynical. “The statements of Israeli officials on peace are misleading,” read the title of the editorial in Al-Quds, the popular Jerusalem-based Arabic language daily newspaper.

A billboard welcoming U.S. President Donald Trump in Bethlehem, May 23, 2017.
HAZEM BADER/AFP

“These statements are nothing but bubbles that will soon vanish,” wrote the editor. “Their purpose is to throw dust in [Trump's] eyes, because the Occupation State is uninterested in peace or in realizing security and stability in the region.”

In an op-ed in the Hamas-affiliated daily Felesteen entitled “You are not welcome in Palestine, Trump,” one journalist could not be blunter.

“There is no value in any meeting between U.S. President Trump and President Mahmoud Abbas," wrote Fayez Abu Shamala. "Palestinian blood has spilled over the red carpet, anger flown in the veins of a people identifying with their prisoners on the second month of their hunger strike. The American president carries nothing in his political pockets but false promises of a bright future for the two people.”

Pro-Fatah media, however, justified Trump’s visit by noting that Abbas highlighted the plight of the Palestinian prisoners in his speech in Bethlehem. “The mothers of the prisoners are suffering as they are banned from visiting their sons,” Al-Quds quoted the Palestinian president as saying in one headline.

By and large, Abbas was portrayed by Palestinian media as “going through the motions,” counting down the seconds until his presidential obligations toward the visiting dignitary are over.

Some Palestinian commentators were insulted by Trump’s one-hour visit to Bethlehem. “Trump’s visit to Bethlehem was planned to last three hours, then was reduced to less than an hour. It seems like Mrs. Ivanka requested that, and her husband of course!” tweeted Gaza-based journalist Yasser Zaatreh.

“Trump: 27 hours in Israel and one hour in Bethlehem,” read a headline on the popular Palestinian news site Shehab. The site dedicated a separate article to the question of why Trump's daughter and wife did not accompany the president to Bethlehem, quoting responses from Palestinian social media.

“Melania and Ivanka took advantage of the 45 minutes to buy souvenirs and go shopping. Don’t forget that they’re leaving today,” tweeted Roline Tufakji.

Muhammad Said Nashwan, a social activist in the Gaza Strip, remarked on a photo of a billboard erected in Bethlehem for Trump's visit, which stands in front of an Israeli concrete security barrier and reads, “The city of peace welcomes the man of peace."

“This sign was hung up by the Palestinian Authority as President Trump’s car passes through a Zionist checkpoint surrounded by weapons,” Nashwan wrote.

Another Gaza journalist, Ismail al-Thawabta, wrote on Facebook that Trump’s characterization of Hamas as a terrorist group reminded him of attacks on the Prophet Mohammed by his clan members in the early days of Islam.

“May the hands of Abu Lahab and Abu Jahl be ruined,” Thawabta wrote, referring to the 111th chapter of the Koran, which alludes to the destiny of the enemies of Islam. “May the hands of Trump and his supporters be ruined. They forget that Muslims only raised their swords in defense of the true message. So too, Palestinian resistance brandishes its sword only in defense of this nation’s honor, which lay in deep slumber.”