U.S. Confirms Trump Invited Abbas as Palestinian Official Says Pence 'Unwelcome in Palestine'

White House confirms to Haaretz that Abbas was invited, as crisis on Jerusalem escalates and casts shadow over Pence's planned visit to Israel, West Bank

File photo: Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas, exits the White House after meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017.
File photo: Palestinian Authority leader, Mahmoud Abbas, exits the White House after meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to visit the White House, the Trump administration confirmed to Haaretz on Thursday, as the political fallout from the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital cast a shadow over a planned visit to the region by Vice President Mike Pence.

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The White House confirmed reports that Trump invited Abbas to visit him in Washington in a few weeks' time, when the Palestinian president is slated to be in the city for a medical procedure.

The invitation was extended in a phone call on Tuesday when Trump called the Palestinian leader to inform him of his decision on Jerusalem. No date has been set yet for the meeting, the White House said, adding that Trump expressed his wish to discuss his administration's peace plan with Abbas.

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Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official in Abbas’s ruling Fatah party said on Thursday that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, due to visit the region later this month, “is unwelcome in Palestine.”

“In the name of Fatah I say that we will not welcome Trump’s deputy in the Palestinian Territories. He asked to meet (Abbas) on the 19th of this month in Bethlehem, such a meeting will not take place,” Jibril Rajoub said.

Aides for Abbas were not immediately available for comment.

Palestinian protesters burn pictures of US President Donald Trump at the manger square in Bethlehem on December 5, 2017.
MUSA AL SHAER/AFP

Pence is expected to visit the region later this month. He is set to travel to Israel and to the West Bank city of Bethlehem. It was not clear what Rajoub's remarks meant for the West Bank portion of Pence's trip, but Politico reported Thursday that Pence “still intends to meet with Abbas and Palestinian leaders and thinks any decision to pull out of the meeting would be counterproductive,” a White House official was quoted as saying.

Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to advance plans to move the U.S. Embassy to the contested city has sparked outrage across the region.

Trump abruptly reversed decades of U.S. policy on Wednesday by recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, generating outrage from Palestinians and defying warnings of Middle East unrest. Trump also plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Abbas traveled to Amman to meet King Abdullah II of Jordan to coordinate positions on Trump's Jerusalem decision. 

Trump's decision has garnered condemnation from leaders around the world and calls by Hamas to "ignite a new intifada." 

Meanwhile, at least 19 Palestinians were wounded in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza during clashes with Israeli soldiers, the Red Crescent said Thursday.

Demonstrations in Ramallah, Tul Karm, and Nablus were attended by many hundreds of demonstrators, some of whom burned pictures of U.S. President Donald Trump. Dozens of Palestinians also protested in several locations throughout the north and center of the Gaza Strip.

In the West Bank cities of Hebron and Al-Bireh, thousands of demonstrators rallied with chants of "Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Palestine," witnesses said. Some Palestinians threw stones at soldiers.

The Israeli military said it was reinforcing troops deployed in the West Bank in response to the protests. Several new army battalions would be deployed and other forces put on standby, a military statement said, calling the measures "part of the IDF's readiness for possible developments."