Trump Told Abbas: We're Working on New Peace Deal, but Need More Time to Formulate It

Following the meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Palestinian officials expect the White House to put forth a proposal within weeks

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas listens while U.S. President Donald Trump makes a statement before a meeting during the 72nd UN General Assembly in New York, September 20, 2017.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP

U.S. President Donald Trump told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday that the White House is working on a new Palestinian-Israeli peace plan, but needs more time to put it together. 

Palestinian and U.S. sources said Trump requested that Abbas give him time to draft the proposal and avoid taking any measures that would impede the process.

>> Palestinian President Abbas puts one-state solution on the table / Analysis >>

Senior Palestinian officials said that in the wake of the meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the Palestinian leadership expected the White House to put forth a proposal or a position paper on the renewal of negotiations within a few weeks.

A senior White House aide noted that Trump’s Middle East advisers – in particular Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt – are continuing their conversations with Israeli and Palestinian representatives, but believe there is no point in creating an artificial or arbitrary schedule for talks.

In an interview with the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi before his meeting with the U.S. president, Abbas confirmed that during Kushner’s visit to the region in August, aides to Trump had requested a one-month time-out to draw up proposals for renewing the negotiations, and that he had agreed. 

Senior Palestinian figures said the Palestinian Authority agreed to wait for the U.S. proposal to be presented before taking any significant diplomatic steps.

Aides to Abbas have barely mentioned the content of the Palestinian leader’s conversation with the U.S. president. The Palestinian envoy to the United States, Husam Zomlot, told Haaretz that Abbas clarified to Trump the Palestinian position, including “the path to an agreement leading to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state along the 1967 borders.”

The PA attaches great importance to the fact that both the White House and State Department have thus far said nothing in response to media reports of a new Egyptian effort to reconcile the PA and Hamas. The Palestinian leadership sees the absence of U.S. criticism of the reconciliation effort as a de facto green light for the move. 

The PA also believes this lack of opposition reflects the administration’s view that the reconciliation is an internal Palestinian political matter.

In media statements prior to his meeting with Abbas, Trump continued to broadcast optimism, determination and personal commitment to his effort to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, saying he believes the chances of such a deal may be better than ever and that he plans to throw his heart and soul into the effort. He also said he’s interested in trying to achieve not only Israeli-Palestinian peace but a broader Mideast peace, adding that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states are participating in his efforts.

Abbas responded by praising Trump lavishly for his desire to make peace, voicing hope that Trump’s efforts would succeed within the coming year. He added that since Trump took office, he has met with either the president or his advisers more than 20 times, and this shows how serious the administration’s peace efforts are. Peace would benefit both Palestinians and Israelis, Abbas continued. 

After thanking Abbas for his remarks, Trump said he had been hearing about the Mideast peace process ever since he was a young boy. Now, he said, this process is at a decisive moment; there is only a short window of time available, but he plans to see what can be done within this time. He added that he doesn’t want to promise anything, since so many people have talked about peace without anything happening, but stressed that success would be a wonderful legacy for everyone.

Shortly after his meeting with Trump on Wednesday, Abbas addressed the UN General Assembly. His speech was punctuated with anger and frustration. Abbas is aware that his ability to inspire hope in his people – the hope of an independent Palestinian state – is diminishing. This very forum, which applauded Abbas six years ago when he submitted an application for the recognition of Palestine, has since failed to turn its support into facts on the ground.

The Palestinians had high expectations for the Obama administration, which has made way for an administration they see as unwilling to wholeheartedly commit to a two-state solution based on 1967 borders. 

Speaking at the UN, Abbas declared that the one-state solution is an option for the Palestinian leadership. “Neither you, nor we, will have any other choice but to continue the struggle and demand full, equal rights for all inhabitants of historic Palestine,” he said. “This is not a threat, but a warning of the realities before us as a result of ongoing Israeli policies that are gravely undermining the two-state solution.”