RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said his first meeting with President Donald Trump left him hopeful, even though they did not discuss specifics about how to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Abbas said he believes the Trump administration can play an important role as a mediator.
“What is needed is to bring the two parties together, to bring them closer and then to facilitate things between them,” he told reporters late Wednesday, after his White House meeting.
Trump also struck an optimistic note Wednesday, saying he believes an Israeli-Palestinian deal can be reached. He did not explain what type of solution he envisions.
The Palestinians want to set up a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Abbas reiterated the demand as he stood next to Trump at the White House.
However, there have been no serious negotiations since gaps widened with the 2009 election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister. Netanyahu rejects the 1967 frontier as a baseline for border talks and rules out a partition of Jerusalem where Palestinians hope to establish a capital. The Netanyahu government, like those before it, have expanded settlements on war-won lands, despite U.S. appeals to curb construction.
Despite the lack of specifics, Abbas described his meeting with Trump as positive and said that “we build hopes on it.”
“So far, we didn’t talk about a mechanism, but the contacts between us and the Americans began and will continue,” he said.
Abbas said he is ready to meet with Netanyahu, and suggested the Israeli leader is avoiding such talks.
“We had planned to meet in Moscow, but he didn’t show up,” Abbas said, referring to Russian efforts several months ago to set up such a meeting.
Netanyahu has said he is willing to meet with Abbas. In the past, Abbas balked at the idea of such a summit, saying it would be pointless without general agreement on the framework of negotiations and a significant curb in settlement construction. Abbas did not explain his apparent shift in position.