Palestinians say Trump to make ‘historic’ offer to Abbas next month

Senior Palestinian officials said Monday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will travel to the US to meet with President Donald Trump next month, during which the American leader will propose that the Palestinians restart peace negotiations with Israel in exchange for a freeze on Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and a promise not to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Well-placed American sources said the claim was untrue.

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Al-Khaleej daily, in an article published Monday, that the “historic” offer would be presented during Abbas’s expected trip to Washington early next month.

A senior official in Abbas’s Fatah movement provided the Emirati news site with the details of the alleged proposal, which include a halt in settlement expansion and a commitment not to relocate the US Embassy, a featured campaign promise by Trump. This would be in exchange for the Palestinians reentering negotiations with Israel — in a summit to be hosted in Amman with the two parties, as well as the US and Jordan. The official added that Abbas is likely to agree to the deal, saying that “he does not have any other choice.”

There was no independent confirmation of the report. And well-placed American sources told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that the Palestinian claims were false.

It is unclear whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be able to agree to any such terms, due to the current right-wing makeup of his government. He has reportedly opposed similar offers involving building freezes in the past.

This is not the first time Trump’s ostensible interest in an internationally sponsored regional conference on the peace process has been raised. On Monday, Al-Monitor reported a senior diplomatic source as saying such a summit is expected to be held a month or two after the Trump-Abbas sit-down.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara meet with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas during the state funeral of late Israeli president Shimon Peres, held at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center right) and his wife, Sara, meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) during the state funeral of Israeli ex-president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, September 30, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

During a phone conversation the two held on Friday, Trump invited the Palestinian leader to the White House.

During a Sunday address at a graduation ceremony for public-sector employees, Abbas told the crowd that Trump reaffirmed, during the call, his commitment to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

A transcript of the speech posted by an official Palestinian news agency initially included Abbas saying Trump had told him he supported a two-state solution, but the erroneous section was later corrected.

The transcript was widely cited in both foreign and domestic press outlets, due to its revealing of an apparent backtrack from Trump’s comments last month. Then the US president had told Netanyahu, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a graduation ceremony for public sector employees in Ramallah on March 12, 2017. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a graduation ceremony for public sector employees in Ramallah on March 12, 2017. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Netanyahu on Monday met with US Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt in Jerusalem. The two discussed opportunities for advancing peace between Israel and its neighbors, and tried to formulate a coordinated approach for the two leaderships on the issue of settlements.

Greenblatt told Netanyahu that “enabling the growth of the Palestinian economy and improving the quality of life for Palestinians” were important to Trump. The prime minister replied that he was “fully committed to broadening prosperity for Palestinians,” seeing the issue “as a means of bolstering the prospects for peace.”

Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Monday, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt (left) meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

The Trump envoy was set to meet with Abbas on Tuesday as part of an attempt to broker fresh peace talks after years of stagnation.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said on Sunday that the upcoming meeting between Greenblatt and Abbas would focus on planning for Abbas’s trip to Washington.

Greenblatt would not be bringing new proposals, he said.

Abbas spoke Saturday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II to brief him a day after his conversation with Trump, saying that the US leader has a commitment to an “authentic” peace process.

The PA premier had also spoken to Abdullah to coordinate stances ahead of the conversation with the US president.

Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before a meeting at the Royal Palace in Amman on November 12, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/KHALIL MAZRAAWI)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (right) talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (left) before a meeting at the Royal Palace in Amman, on November 12, 2014. (AFP /Khalil Mazraawi)

There had been fears among the Palestinians that Trump would wholeheartedly adopt Israeli positions after he vowed to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv and gave indications he would be more accommodating to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Since taking office on January 20, Trump has spoken by phone with Netanyahu twice and has hosted him at the White House.

But the US president has backtracked on a swift relocation of the US Embassy, and publicly urged Netanyahu — during their joint press conference last month — to “hold back” on settlement building.

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