A poignant caricature published by Hamas daily al-Resalah on Wednesday depicted U.S. President Donald Trump as the Statue of Liberty. At its feet, a miserable looking Mahmoud Abbas kneels, begging in his underwear.
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Palestinian press coverage of Trump’s meeting with President Abbas on Wednesday reflected the deep political divide between Fatah and Hamas. The two factions forged a unity government three years ago, but never settled their ideological differences.
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“After meeting Trump, Abbas will either succumb or be besieged,” read the headline of an opinion article by al-Resalah columnist Muhammad Ballour.
“PA President Mahmoud Abbas deserves a medal of bravery if he surprises all observers of the Palestinian-Israeli scene by displaying a modicum of steadfastness on Palestinian principles, in the face of a dollar king and dear friend of Israel, U.S. President Donald Trump,” wrote Ballour on the paper’s website.
“The Trump-Abbas meeting raises the level of danger to the Palestinian cause to code orange, since in all likelihood Trump will try to impose diktats on Abbas reflecting Israeli aspirations,” he added.
A less sarcastic article in the same newspaper noted that Trump completely avoided using the term “Palestinian state” during his 15-minute press conference with Abbas.
Yasser Zaatreh, a Gaza-based journalist and political pundit with over a quarter of a million followers on twitter, live-tweeted the event.
“Trump is astonished by what he calls ‘the level of coordination between Israeli and Palestinian leaders,’” he commented with frustration. “It is indeed astonishing. Unprecedented cooperation in the history of national liberation movements!”
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, attacked Abbas’ very legitimacy to travel to the White House. “No one authorized Mahmoud Abbas to represent the Palestinian people and all the positions that he has made don't obligate anyone,” he tweeted. “We reject Abbas' statement that all final-status issues are solvable because these are national rights for all Palestinians.”
Meanwhile, mainstream West Bank media, largely affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, was gentler with Abbas. The online headline of Jerusalem-based daily al-Quds read: “Trump: I welcome President Abbas in the White House as peacemaker.” Trump personally welcomed Abbas upon exiting his car at the White House, the reporter noted.
Munir al-Jaghoub, a Fatah spokesman, used Twitter to highlight the image of Trump speaking on the backdrop of the Palestinian flag.
In an op-ed published in al-Quds, columnist Talal Salman called on his readers to lower their expectations from the meeting.
“It makes no sense to demand of the American president, whoever he may be, to identify with the Palestinian cause more than the Arab kings and presidents do. During their last summit, they did not dare repeat previous decisions in order not to provoke the Israelis,” wrote Salman.
Looking to the future, the editor-in-chief of popular Bethlehem news site Ma’an, Nasser Lahham, warned Trump against moving the American embassy to Jerusalem ahead of his expected trip to Israel later this month.
“If he does so, the honeymoon between Trump and the Arabs – moreover, between Trump and the Muslims – will quickly end. The liberal doves in the Palestinian arena will not be able to cool the hotheads. One spark after another will ignite under the domes of mosques and the bells of churches, until the entire field will be ablaze,” wrote Lahham.
Rajab Abu-Sariya, a columnist writing for official PA daily al-Ayyam, reassured his readers, however, that Abbas was traveling to convince Trump of Palestinian moderation in future talks.
“President Abbas will – in our view – express the utmost political flexibility in convincing President Trump of the Palestinian seriousness in reaching a historic compromise. This compromise coincides with Israel’s interest, but not with the interest of its extreme right,” wrote Abu-Sariya.
The international Arab press focused its coverage on the optimism expressed by Trump toward the prospect of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
London-based daily al-Hayat led its article with Trump’s promise to grant Abbas “an Arab umbrella” for peace negotiations. Its reporter quoted experts as expecting “a cautious and slow pace of direct or indirect negotiations led by Washington.”
Lebanese pro-Hezbollah channel al-Mayadeen quoted a statement by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine arguing that the meeting between the two leaders was nothing but “another attempt to sell illusions, another link in the chain of pressure attempting to bypass Palestinian national rights.”