Seeking to coordinate positions ahead of his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Jordan's King Abdullah on Sunday, a day after traveling to Cairo to meet Egypt's leader Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi.
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One issue that Abbas might raise in his meeting with Trump in the White House on Wednesday is the two-week long hunger strike by Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Abbas has asked Sissi to intervene to resolve the crisis.
A member of the Fatah Central Committee, Azzam al-Ahmad, who was part of the delegation to Washington, told Palestinian news agency Wafa that Abbas handed Sissi a report on the prisoners. Ahmad told Wafa the two presidents agreed to continue to work with all relevant parties to end the affair and ensure that Israel honored the international community’s principles regarding prisoners.
Palestinian officials who took part in preparatory talks ahead of the Trump-Abbas meet said the Palestinian leaders had the impression that the U.S. administration has not yet crafted a clear policy on the peace process and that all the talks so far had been to present positions and air new ideas and proposals.
“We can’t talk about a clear plan for renewing negotiations because this requires some basis of agreement,” a Palestinian official said. “If Trump demands that the Palestinians submit something, Israel will have to submit something concrete as well. In the meantime, we’re not hearing anything encouraging from Israel – only construction of settlements and positions becoming more extreme.”
Trump sounded optimistic over the weekend about his ability to achieve a breakthrough in the Middle East peace process – just a few days before he meets with Abbas and three weeks before his planned visit to Israel.
“I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump told Reuters. “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians – none whatsoever.”
In Israel, the Prime Minister’s Office did not comment on Trump’s remarks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his aides are closely following preparations for the Trump-Abbas meeting Wednesday, as well as the positive statements by Palestinian leaders as the U.S. president tries to revive the peace process.
Over the weekend, the Palestinian delegation that was in Washington last week to prepare for Abbas’ visit returned to Ramallah. Abbas’ itinerary has not yet been settled and it is not clear which officials he will meet with other than Trump.
Husam Zomlot, the PLO’s recently appointed chief representative in Washington, said Abbas was coming to Washington with one clear objective: to work with Trump to create a political horizon for peace. He said Trump and Abbas had a “very positive conversation” when they spoke on the phone last month, and Abbas was ready to “employ his vision for peace with full force.”
Asked about the meeting’s agenda, Zomlot said “there is one thing on the agenda, and that thing is the historic opportunity for peace presented by President Trump.”
Zomlot said that for months the Palestinians have viewed Trump in this way. According to Zomlot, Abbas hopes to forge a “strategic partnership” with the new president amid the historic opportunity. Abbas has a vision for peace, a strong and proven commitment to diplomacy and greater legitimacy than anyone else to attain a permanent agreement, Zomlot said.
Meanwhile, the Haifa District Court is set to hear a petition filed in the name of prisoner Karim Yunis against the prison service’s ban on visits by his family. Yunis, a prisoner leader, was moved to Kishon Prison after the hunger strike began.
Also, the High Court of Justice is to hear a petition Wednesday filed by rights group Adalah and attorneys Yamen Zidan and Sliman Shahin representing the Palestinian prisoners’ committee. The attorneys are demanding that the court order the prison service to let them visit their hunger-striking clients.
In a statement, Zidan and attorney Muna Haddad from Adalah said: “Preventing a prisoner from meeting with his attorney is illegal and constitutes prohibited punishment. The role of attorneys is to protect the rights of prisoners, and therefore preventing a meeting takes away from the prisoners the guarantee of protection of their constitutional rights such as physical well-being, the right to dignity and the right to access to a court.”
Reuters contributed to this report.