Trump-Abbas Talk Refutes Israeli Claim It Has No Partner for Peace, Palestinian Officials Say

The call signaled the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the top of Trump's agenda, Palestinian source says. Abbas is expected to meet with the U.S. president's diplomatic adviser Jason Greenblatt in Ramallah on Tuesday.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 27, 2017.
Salvatore Di Nolfi, Keystone via AP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' conversation with U.S. President Donald Trump refutes Israel's claim that the Palestinian leader isn't a partner for peace, Palestinian officials said Saturday.

Trump spoke on the phone with Abbas for the first time on Friday, and invited him to the White House. According to a senior Palestinian official, Trump had told Abbas that he knows he is committed to peace and is aware of the international community's respect for him.

A source close the Palestinian president told Haaretz on Saturday that the two didn't discuss the details pertaining to a future peace deal. "It was a preliminary conversation meant to break the ice," the source said. "Trump didn't talk about one state or two states or a specific arrangement, nor about the embassy issue. These details will come up in talks with the professional teams and perhaps in a meeting between the two at the White house.

"What's important is that this conversation was the White House's initiative, and for us that's a pretty clear message that President Abbas is a partner and that the Palestinian issue is at the top of the Palestinian president's agenda."    

Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh also said Saturday that the talk, as well as the Palestinian president's meeting with CIA director Mike Pompeo last month, decimated the Israeli claim that Abbas isn't a partner for peace. The conversations sent "a clear message" that the Palestinian issue stands at the center of the conflict in the Middle East, and that the international community's decisions on the matter aren't "disconnected from reality."

According to Rudeineh, the establishment of a Palestinian state would lead to regional stability and that the Arab summit slated to take place in Jordan next month will pose an opportunity to strengthen this position. 

Abbas and his team will meet with Jason Greenblatt, one of Trump's top diplomatic advisers, during the latter's visit to Ramallah on Tuesday. The Palestinian team is expected to raise issues pertaining to the conflict. 

The White House said Friday that in their conversation Trump told Abbas that he believes a peace deal between Israel and Palestinians must be negotiated directly by the two sides.

The call was the first contact between the two leaders, coming after complaints by Palestinian officials that they have failed to establish contact with the Trump administration. 

At a Feb. 15 news conference during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington, Trump was ambivalent about a two-state solution, the mainstay of U.S. policy in the region for the past two decades. 

"I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like ... I can live with either one," Trump said, causing consternation acrosss the Arab world and in many European capitals. 

The White House has since been more cautious on the issue, and there has been less talk of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a promise Trump made during the campaign but a move that would provoke anger across the Muslim world. 

A day before Trump's meeting with Netanyahu, CIA chief Pompeo met with Abbas and other Palestinian officials in Ramallah. A Palestinian security official said the Palestinians stressed at the meeting the consequences of the collapse of the peace process.