TRUMP TO PLAY PEACE­MAKER

US pres­i­dent, how­ever, has not of­fered any co­he­sive strat­egy or dead­line

New Straits Times - - World -

UNITED States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vowed on Wed­nes­day to do “what­ever is nec­es­sary” to bro­ker peace be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans as he hosted Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas at the White House, but gave no sign of how he could re­vive long-stalled ne­go­ti­a­tions.

In their first meet­ing, Trump pressed Ab­bas to do more to stop “in­cite­ment to vi­o­lence” against Is­raelis.

Even as Trump pre­dicted he would achieve peace where other pres­i­dents had failed, he stopped short of recom­mit­ting his ad­min­is­tra­tion to a two-state so­lu­tion to the decades-old con­flict, a long-stand­ing foun­da­tion of US pol­icy.

Trump told Ab­bas: “I will do what­ever is nec­es­sary... I would love to be a me­di­a­tor or an ar­bi­tra­tor or a fa­cil­i­ta­tor, and we will get this done.”

Trump has faced deep scep­ti­cism at home and abroad over the chances for him to achieve any quick break­through, not least be­cause his ad­min­is­tra­tion has yet to ar­tic­u­late a co­he­sive strat­egy for restart­ing the mori­bund peace process.

Ab­bas’ White House talks fol­lowed a Fe­bru­ary visit by Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu.

Trump sparked crit­i­cism at the time, when he ap­peared to back away from a two-state so­lu­tion, say­ing he would leave it up to the par­ties to de­cide.

The meet­ing with Ab­bas, the head of the Pales­tinian Author­ity, was another test of whether Trump is se­ri­ous about pur­su­ing the kind of peace deal that eluded his pre­de­ces­sors.

Trump in­sisted he was ready to try to reach the “tough­est deal”. But when he later sat down to lunch with the Pales­tinian leader, he said it was “maybe not as dif­fi­cult as peo­ple have thought over the years”.

Trump, who said he de­cided to “start a process” but of­fered no new pol­icy pre­scrip­tions or timetable, may be un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the chal­lenge when trust be­tween the two sides is low.

“You can’t just pre­tend you only have to han­dle a few key is­sues and that’s it,” said David Makovsky, a mem­ber of Trump’s pre­de­ces­sor, Barack Obama’s ne­go­ti­at­ing team dur­ing the last talks, which col­lapsed in 2014.

Still, plans are be­ing firmed up for Trump to visit Ne­tanyahu in Jerusalem and pos­si­bly Ab­bas in the West Bank on May 22 and 23.

US and Is­raeli of­fi­cials have de­clined to con­firm the visit.

Ab­bas promised that un­der “your coura­geous stew­ard­ship and your wis­dom, as well as your great ne­go­ti­at­ing abil­ity”, the Pales­tini­ans would be part­ners seek­ing a “his­toric peace treaty”.

But un­der pres­sure at home to avoid ma­jor con­ces­sions, the 82year-old leader said: “It’s about time for Is­rael to end its oc­cu­pa­tion”, re­fer­ring to Jewish set­tle­ments in the West Bank.

Ab­bas, how­ever, did not re­peat in pub­lic his de­mand that Is­rael freeze set­tle­ment con­struc­tion on land Pales­tini­ans want for a state as a con­di­tion for ne­go­ti­a­tions. Reuters

EPA PIC

United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump (right) with Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas at the White House in Washington on Wed­nes­day.

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