Jpost Arab-Israeli Conflict
By Tovah Lazaroff
20 August 2017
The turmoil in Washington is making it difficult for the Trump administration to push forward a peace plan, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday in advance of a regional visit by a top US delegation at the end of the month.
“I don’t understand how they are going to conduct themselves with us, given that within their own nation, the administration is in chaos,” Abbas said.
He spoke in Ramallah with Meretz party head MK Zehava Gal-On, whose office later released details of the conversation to the media, including quotes from Abbas.
“I have met with [US President Donald] Trump’s emissaries to the Middle East about 20 times since the start of his tenure,” Abbas said.
“Each time, they have emphasized their commitment and allegiance to the two-state solution and to the cessation of building in the settlements. I have urged them to say the same thing to [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, but they have refrained from doing so. I am not sure what this means with regard to the continuation of the talks or with regard to the results of the upcoming visit,” he told the Meretz delegation.
Since taking office in January, Trump has publicly asked Netanyahu to constrain settlement construction but has not condemned it, although the State Department has said that it is not helpful to the peace process. Israel has maintained that it can continue to build in settlements.
The Palestinians have insisted that such activity is a stumbling block to peace and that under the Obama administration, the PA refused to talk to Israel until it halted all West Bank settlement building as well as the construction of Jewish homes in east Jerusalem.
Ties between the PA and Trump have been strained as the US has pressured Abbas to halt payments to terrorists and their families. Trump has also refrained from publicly endorsing the creation of a Palestinian state. It’s an issue that the Palestinians are expected to raise with his envoys later this month.
During his meeting with Gal-On, Abbas said the Palestinian Authority had better ties with Israel’s security forces than with its government. Still, it broke off security ties with Israel in the aftermath of July’s Temple Mount crisis.
“Recently, we turned to [Israel] to try and restore some sort of cooperation, but it has yet to respond. This has impeded any progress in the relationship,” Abbas said.
In the interim, Palestinian security forces have worked to prevent any activity that would transform the conflict from one of politics to religion, Abbas said.
An Israeli official denied that Abbas had asked for the resumption of security ties.
The US delegation will be led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, special envoy Jason Greenblatt and US Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell. Aside from visiting Israel and the PA territories, the group will also travel to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt.
Representatives from Meretz typically visit Abbas once or twice a year. They last met with him in January in Ramallah.
Sunday’s delegation included MK Esawi Frej, Meretz secretary- general Mossy Raz and the party’s diplomatic adviser, Ilan Baruch.
Meretz’s support of a twostate solution based on the pre-1967 lines is closely aligned with the Palestinian vision for a final status agreement.
Talks on a two-state solution broke down in April 2014. Since taking office, Trump has worked to resume those talks.