WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump will speak on the phone with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the first time on Friday, according to an official schedule released by the White House. The phone call will take place at 12:15 P.M. EST (7:15 P.M. Israel time).
It will be the first contact between the two leaders, coming after complaints by Palestinian officials that they have failed to establish contact with the Trump administration.
According to a Palestinians spokesperson, Trump initiated the conversation and Abbas is planning to state his commitement to working with the president for peace.
Trump has expressed interest a number of times since his election victory in achieving what he calls "the ultimate deal" - peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The issue came up in his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month in Washington, during which Trump told the Israeli Prime Minister that "both sides will have to make concessions" in order to reach peace.
The conversation with Abbas comes ahead of an expected visit by Jason Greenblatt, one of Trump's top diplomatic advisers, to the region. Abbas will be one of the last Arab leaders to speak with Trump on the phone, after the president has already spoken with the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries in the region.
The only Arab leader so far who has personally met Trump since the election, however, is Jordan's King Abdullah. Immediately after his conversation with Abbas, Trump will meet at the White House with Secertary of State Rex Tillerson for lunch.
On Thursday, Abbas met in Ramallah with a delegation representing the Union for Reform Judaism. The meeting took place at his office, and was attended by his senior adviser Husam Zomlot, who was recently appointed to be the next Palestinian ambassador to the United States. Abbas told the 30 members of the delegation thay the continued Israeli settlement activities are illegal and undermine the two-state solution. He also said he was interested in improving and deepening the Palestinian Authority's dialogue with the Jewish-American community.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said after the meeting that the members of the delegation "did not agree" with everything they heard from Abbas, but were glad to hold the meeting. I was pleased to hear that Palestinian officials have been in contact with the Trump administration, which had confirmed to President Abbas that the U.S. policy remains in support of the two-state solution," Jacobs added.
We pressed the president about the Palestinian Authoritys responsibility to stem anti-Israeli incitement. He acknowledged it was a real challenge, just as it is in Israel, and called for reviving the anti-incitement trilateral committee led by the U.S., Rabbi Jacobs said. The members of the delegation have been in Israel since earlier this week, and have also met with Israeli Preisdent Reuven Rivlin and other officials in Jerusalem. They are scheduled to meet Netanyahu on Sunday.
Jack Khoury contributed to this report.
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