Donald Trump has committed the United States to helping Israel and the Palestinians reach peace, telling visiting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas: “We will get it done.”
Trump spoke after welcoming Abbas to the White House for a meeting aimed at relaunching talks that have failed repeatedly to resolve the decades-old conflict. “I’ve always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Trump said. “Let’s see if we can prove them wrong.”
He insisted: “We will get it done.”
Speaking through a translator, Abbas echoed Trump’s upbeat tone: “We believe that we can be true partners to you to bring about a historic peace under your stewardship.”
Barely two and a half months after he received Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the US president greeted Abbas on the White House lawn, before ushering him into the Oval Office for their talks.
The longshot effort to bring peace – which has eluded US presidents since the 1970s – got off to a rocky start early in Trump’s administration.
Trump renounced support for a Palestinian state and vowed to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, breaking two tenets of American policy held for decades.
Mike Pence, the vice-president, said on Tuesday said Trump is still “giving serious consideration into moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem”. That move would likely spark Palestinian fury and is privately seen by many in the Israel and US security establishments as needlessly inflammatory.
At the same time, Trump has urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.
Pence said Trump is “personally committed to resolving the Israeli and Palestinian conflict” and “valuable progress” is being made.
The 82-year-old Abbas made the trip to Washington while he is politically unpopular back home, with polls suggesting most Palestinians want him to resign. Abbas’s term was meant to expire in 2009, but he has remained in office with no elections held. He will be hoping Trump can pressure Israel into concessions he believes are necessary to salvage a two-state solution to one of the world’s longest-running conflicts.
Palestinians are watching closely, including the leader of the radical Hamas movement Khaled Meshaal, who called on Trump to break with past approaches to Middle East peace. “This is a historic opportunity to pressure Israel to find an equitable solution for the Palestinian people,” he told CNN.