US President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held their first conversation on Friday since the controversial real estate mogul took office in January, with the president formally inviting the Palestinian leader to the White House for a meeting.
“The president emphasized his personal belief that peace is possible and that the time has come to make a deal,” the White House said. “The president noted that such a deal would not only give Israelis and Palestinians the peace and security they deserve, but that it would reverberate positively throughout the region and the world.”
During the conversation, the US president invited Abbas “to visit the White House soon to discuss ways to resume the [Palestinian-Israeli] political process,” Wafa quoted Abbas’s spokesman as saying.
The spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said that Trump stressed his “commitment to a peace process that would lead to a real peace between Palestinians and Israelis”, Wafa reported.
Abbas told Trump that peace was a “strategic choice” for the Palestinian people that should lead to the “establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.”
The report made no mention of the two-state solution, which the Trump administration appeared to distance itself from last month ahead of Trump’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
At a joint press conference with Netanyahu on February 15, Trump said: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”
Rudeineh said after Friday’s call that the Palestinians were “ready to deal with President Trump and the Israeli government to resume the negotiations. If the Israelis are ready, President Abbas has committed himself to a peaceful deal with President Trump.”
Rudeineh went on to add that “President Trump is a very honest man, very courageous man, looking for a deal, a just deal.”
Ahead of the conversation with Trump Friday, Rudeineh said the PA president spoke to Jordanian King Abdullah II to coordinate stances on the peace process.
The phone call between the two ended nearly two months of what Palestinian officials said had been near-total silence between Ramallah and the new administration.
The conversation came days before Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, is expected to sit with Abbas and Netanyahu in separate meetings during his first visit to the region in that role.
A senior administration official told Walla news that Greenblatt will visit the leaders in Jerusalem and the West Bank “to hear their positions on the current state of affairs and on steps that can be taken to move towards peace.”
Palestinian officials had complained several times that attempts to reach out to the new Trump administration met little success, with messages and other communications going unanswered.
Since taking office on January 20, Trump has spoken by phone with Netanyahu twice and hosted him at the White House, reflecting what many say is the administration’s slant toward Israel.
Unnamed officials said last month that CIA chief Mike Pompeo paid a secret visit to Ramallah, and there have been reports of lower level contacts between officials in Washington and Ramallah.
On Thursday, Union of Reform Judaism head Rabbi Rick Jacobs met with Abbas and said that he learned from Palestinian officials that they had spoken with the Trump administration, confirming that US policy continues to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinian officials have expressed frustration over the White House initially appearing to back settlement building and refusing to commit to a two-state solution. In recent weeks, the administration has sent signals to Jerusalem that it does not support unbridled settlement construction or plans to annex some areas of the West Bank.
On Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said he had received a message from Washington against annexation proposals.
“We received a message directly — not indirectly, not a hint — from the US, that Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank means an immediate crisis with the new administration,” Liberman said.
On Thursday, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmed Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel in a narrow vote. David Friedman’s nomination will now go before the full Senate for approval.
Friedman’s critics cited have his past skepticism of the two-state solution and his deep philanthropic investment in the settlement movement.