Abbas said invited to White House mid-April

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will travel to Washington mid-April to meet with US President Donald Trump, Palestinian media reported Saturday.

There was no immediate confirmation of the report from the White House.

The report of Abbas heading to Washington came just after Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt visited Israel and the West Bank.

Trump spoke to Abbas for the first time over the phone last week and invited the Palestinian leader to the White House in the near future.

“President Trump has extended an official invitation to President Abbas to visit the White House soon to discuss ways to resume the political process, stressing his commitment to a peace process that will lead to a real peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said at the time.

Abbas was scheduled to visit Cairo on Sunday at the invitation of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Army Radio reported. The two were expected to discuss Trump’s initiative to reenergize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The summit follows two months of tensions between the PA leadership and Egypt, which included the expulsion of Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub after his arrival in Cairo.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) meets with Jason Greenblatt, the US president's assistant and special representative for international negotiations, at Abbas's office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 14, 2017. (WAFA)

Abbas told Trump’s special peace envoy Greenblatt on Tuesday that he believes a “historic” peace deal with Israel is possible with Trump in office, according to a US Jerusalem Consulate General readout.

During a meeting at the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in Ramallah, Abbas committed to combat Palestinian incitement, the statement said. The Palestinian leader and Greenblatt also discussed building up the PA’s security forces, advancing the peace process, and improving the Palestinian economy.

According to the readout, Abbas told Greenblatt that “he believes that under President Trump’s leadership a historic peace deal is possible, and that it will enhance security throughout the region.”

“President Abbas committed to preventing inflammatory rhetoric and incitement,” the statement added.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been adamant that PA-sanctioned media and school curriculum are responsible for inciting terrorism.

Abbas told Greenblatt that the Palestinians see the two-state solution as their “strategic choice.”

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/ SAUL LOEB)

The PA leader said he was “looking forward to discussing the possibilities for peace directly with President Trump during his upcoming visit to Washington,” the readout said.

Greenblatt described the meeting on Twitter as a “positive, far-ranging exchange about the current situation.”

The Palestinian daily al-Quds cited sources in the US Congress who said Greenblatt warned Abbas that US lawmakers are working to condition US aid to the Palestinians — with the exception of security assistance — on ending incitement, including payments to the families of Palestinian terrorists.

The PA pays monthly stipends to families who have a member who is considered to have been “martyred,” which usually means being killed by an Israeli while carrying out a terror attack or suspected attack, or who is spending time in Israeli prison for perpetrating a terrorist act.

The US government has already taken measures to ensure its aid isn’t funneled to the families of terrorists. That includes paying the debts of the PA directly, rather than transferring funds into the PA’s coffers.

Abbas has called numerous times to reinstate the US-Palestinian-Israeli tripartite anti-incitement committee, including at the Seventh Fatah Congress in December. The committee was formed as part of the Wye River Memorandum in 1998, and met every two months until the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000. However, images depicting and glorifying attacks on Israelis have also been posted on Facebook pages associated with Abbas’s Fatah party.

Abbas and Greenblatt also “reaffirmed the US and the Palestinian Authority’s joint determination to combat violence and terrorism,” the US readout said.

Prior to meeting Abbas in Ramallah, Greenblatt met with a group of Palestinian hi-tech entrepreneurs, Greenblatt said on Twitter.

During the meeting With Abbas, Greenblatt also discussed “plans to grow the Palestinian economy and the importance of ensuring economic opportunities for Palestinians, which would enhance the prospects for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace,” the readout said.

After the meeting, Greenblatt toured the Jalazone refugee camp in Ramallah.

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. (Photo Credit: Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Greenblatt told Netanyahu during their talks last week 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.”

On March 10, Trump held his first phone conversation with Abbas, inviting him to visit the White House “soon.”

Abbas said that his phone conversation with Trump was “constructive” and that the US president had “confirmed his full commitment to the peace process.”

He added: “We will continue to cooperate with [Trump], in order to arrive at a comprehensive and just peace that will bring security and stability to everyone.”

The US administration is currently said to be weighing how to proceed with a renewed peace effort after Abbas’s visit to Washington. One possibility being considered is a regional summit, to be held in Egypt or Jordan.

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‘THE TIME HAS COME TO MAKE A DEAL,’ TRUMP TELLS ABBAS

 

WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM — A comprehensive agreement settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would advance peace across the region and the world, US President Donald Trump told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a phone call on Friday, according to a readout of the conversation released by the White House.

In his first call with the Palestinian leader, Trump said: “Peace is possible and that the time has come to make a deal,” underscoring that an agreement must be negotiated directly between the two parties.

 

“The United States will work closely with Palestinian and Israeli leadership to make progress toward that goal,” the White House said.

“The president noted that the United States cannot impose a solution on the Israelis and Palestinians, nor can one side impose an agreement on the other.”

Trump invited Abbas to visit Washington for consultations “very soon,” Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah told Wafa, the official PA news site.

A Palestinian source, who was present during the phone call, said the call lasted 10 minutes and was cordial.

The source added that the topics of settlement construction and the American embassy were not discussed.

According to Abu Rudeinah, Abbas stressed his firm belief “in peace as a strategic choice to establish a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.”

Abbas called Jordan’s King Abdullah II shortly before and after his conversation with Trump, amid reports that the US president’s team is eyeing a regional approach to a new Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

PA representatives and Trump administration officials have only met twice since the president assumed office, while two top Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have already made official visits.

In early February, PA General Intelligence chief Majid Faraj and National Security Council officials met in the US capital. A week later, Abbas and CIA Director Mike Pompeo met in Ramallah, a day before Netanyahu arrived in Washington to hold talks with Trump.

Trump cast doubt on the US’s longtime commitment to the two-state solution, speaking at a press conference on February 15 when Netanyahu visited Washington. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like… I can live with either one,” Trump said.

Friday’s call comes a week before Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s adviser for international negotiations, plans to visit the Middle East. Greenblatt is slated to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah to discuss a variety of issues pertaining to the peace process.

Ever unpredictable, Trump throws Mahmoud Abbas a lifeline

US President Donald Trump’s phone conversation Friday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, during which the PA chief was invited to visit to the White House in the near future, has produced considerable optimism in Ramallah.

The American president, whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu anticipated would be far more supportive of Israel than his predecessor Barak Obama, went out of his way in the call to leave Abbas feeling upbeat, PA officials said Saturday.

Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh reported soon after the call on Friday that Trump stressed his “commitment to a peace process that would lead to a real peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” and he hailed the new president as “a very honest man, very courageous man, looking for a deal, a just deal.”

The White House invite was not just extended as “a formal invitation,” one Palestinian official elaborated on Saturday. Rather, Trump made plain “that he wants to host the rais (chairman) as his personal guest.”

The call left the PA leadership with the clear sense that Trump wants to see an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, and intends to work for one.

Palestinian officials have held lower-level talks with officials in the new administration in recent weeks, sources in Ramallah said at the weekend, and concluded that Trump neither wants to impose terms of his own nor to have either one of the sides seek to impose terms. In other words, he will oppose any Palestinian efforts at unilateral action, and, similarly, will oppose dramatic Israeli settlement growth and/or annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Adnan Mjalli (screen capture: YouTube)

The new administration, these officials said, is taking a particular interest in the Palestinian economy, and has been meeting with prominent Palestinian businessmen, including pharma billionaire Adnan Mjalli. Mjalli has apparently operated a back-channel between the White House and Abbas’s Muqata’a headquarters, and is seen as a possible new PA prime minister.

If the Palestinians are correct, then Trump is plainly living up to his unpredictable reputation — defying expectations, this time, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Trump was certainly the gracious host to Netanyahu at the White House last month. Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer is in close, ongoing contact with presidential son-in-law and potential peace broker Jared Kushner. And Trump’s phone call to Netanyahu on Monday, when the prime minister was in the midst of an uncomfortable session of questioning by police over corruption allegations, was nicely timed to enable a break, coincidentally or not.

Nonetheless, unlike Candidate Trump, President Trump is not talking of quickly relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And far from giving a carte blanche for settlement expansion, he publicly urged Netanyahu to “hold back” a little on settlements and said in an interview that settlements are “not a good thing for peace.” He may have declared lightly that he would be happy with a one-state, two-state or any other solution acceptable to both sides, but he hasn’t rushed to negate the two-state solution, and his administration has recommitted to it. And Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said last week that the administration had made plain its opposition to the annexation of Ma’aleh Adumim or any other parts of the West Bank, and that defying this position would be harmful to US-Israel ties.

These, to put it mildly, are not the positions some on the Israeli right had been expecting the Trump Administration to take.

And now, at least in the Palestinian telling, Trump has begun to revive Abbas — drawing the endlessly embattled PA chief back to center-stage. Abbas, whom Israel’s leadership routinely brands “irrelevant,” “not a partner,” and “not genuinely seeking peace,” will soon be on his way to Washington.

It’s not only Israel that has been criticizing Abbas. Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has been undermining the PA president, boosting his rival Mahmoud Dahlan, and cozying up to Hamas, at every opportunity for months.

Trump’s invitation thus constitutes a political lifeline for Abbas. The PA president can hardly be derided as irrelevant if he’s being hosted by the president in Washington, DC.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner arrive for a joint press conference by US President Donald Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House on February 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

Trump’s special Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, once a student at Har Etzion yeshiva, will be visiting Jerusalem and Ramallah on Tuesday. CIA chief Mike Pompeo met with Abbas in Ramallah last month. There are even some indications, emphatically unconfirmed at this stage, that Kushner and Ivanka Trump will soon visit the area, and will call in on Abbas.

If Egypt has been working against him, Jordan’s King Abdullah has been energetically championing Abbas’s cause in Washington. It was not by coincidence that Abbas spoke with the king shortly before Trump called, to coordinate, and updated him soon afterwards on the conversation.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis greets Jordan's King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein during an honor cordon at the Pentagon, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

All of this adds up to more than the faint indication that the Trump administration may be about to plunge into the quicksand of attempted Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. On the campaign trail, Trump acknowledged that this would be hardest of all deals, and maybe its purported impossibility is what he relishes.

The bar right now is so low that even bringing Abbas and Netanyahu together for a photo opportunity on the White House lawn would constitute quite an achievement. Both men would pay a price back home for such an appearance, but if Donald Trump were to invite them, it might be an offer they could not refuse.

Trump invites Abbas to White House ‘soon’ to discuss stalled peace process

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.

Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a joint statement with French President following their meeting on February 7, 2017 at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. (AFP/Stephane de Sakutin)

Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a joint statement with French President following their meeting on February 7, 2017 at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. (AFP/Stephane de Sakutin)

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.

US President Donald Trump, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

US President Donald Trump, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

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.

ABBAS TO EXPAND OUTREACH TO AMERICAN JEWISH COMMUNITY

 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas intends to increase outreach to the American Jewish community, said Husam Zomlot, who was recently appointed ambassador- at-large to the United States.

His comments followed a meeting between Abbas, Union of Reform Judaism president Rick Jacobs and some 30 other Reform Jewish leaders at the Mukata, the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah on Thursday.

 

“This will not be a one-time meeting,” Zomlot, who attended the meeting, told The Jerusalem Post during a phone interview. “The president sees the mainstream Jewish community in the United States as a force for peace that can help us advance the cause of the two-state solution and combat voices of extremism.”

Top Palestinian officials have historically maintained ties with some left-leaning Jewish-affiliated groups in America, such as J Street and Americans for Peace Now.

The Union for Reform Judaism has consistently backed a two-state solution and expressed criticism of Israeli settlement building.

Zomlot, who is slated to arrive in Washington in late March to begin his new role, added that Jacobs will be setting up a meeting for him with a number of American Jewish leaders after he arrives in the American capitol.

Jacobs was not available to comment on this report.

“The meeting today made it clear that we see eye-to-eye with the Reform movement, which represents more than a third of the American Jewish community,” Zomlot remarked. “I believe that we have a shared vision, and the need for cooperation has never been more timely.”

Zomlot said both Abbas and Jacobs affirmed their support for a two-state solution and opposition to settlements in Thursday’s meeting.

Abbas has consistently stated his support for a two-state solution since becoming president of the PA in 2005 and has engaged in a number of negotiations with Israel. Over the past several years, however, Abbas has attempted to realize a two-state solution through international institutions rather than direct engagement with the Israeli government.

Trump and Abbas to speak by phone for first time Friday

US President Donald Trump will hold his first conversation with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Friday, the White House said late Thursday.

The phone call between the two will end nearly two months of what Palestinian officials say has been near-total silence between Ramallah and the new administration.

According to Trump’s schedule released by the White House, the US president will speak with Abbas by phone at 12:15 p.m. Washington time (8:15 p.m. in Israel). The call will come before Trump has lunch with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The White House did not say what would be discussed, and there was no immediate comment from Ramallah.

The conversation will come days before Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, is expected to meet with Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in separate meetings in his first visit to the region in that role, according to a report by the Walla news site.

Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a joint statement with French President following their meeting on February 7, 2017 at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. (AFP/Stephane de Sakutin)

Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a joint statement with French President following their meeting on February 7, 2017 at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris. (AFP/Stephane de Sakutin)

A senior administration official told Walla news that Greenblatt will visit the leaders in both 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 have complained several times that attempts to reach out to the Trump administration have met little success, with messages and other communications going unanswered.

US President Donald Trump, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

US President Donald Trump, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

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.

Earlier 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.

Earlier 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.

JTA contributed to this report.

Abbas to Africa: Put Palestinian plight ahead of forging ties with Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday urged African nations not to bolster their ties with Israel at the expense of the Palestinians, and accused “Israel of doing all that it can to undermine” Palestinian statehood.

Israel has embarked on a diplomatic push over the past year to bolster ties with several African countries, but Abbas told African leaders at the 28th summit of the African Union that they should look beyond whatever interest they have in forging ties with Israel.

“We urge you that this should not be done at the expense of the just cause of our Palestinian people, which still needs your help to get rid of the abhorrent Israeli occupation,” Abbas said in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, according to a report in the official PA news outlet Wafa.

Improving ties with Africa has been one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s key foreign policy priorities, which led to his July visit to four countries in Eastern Africa, where he met with seven heads of state. Two months later he held a meeting with more than 15 African leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with African leaders in Uganda on July 4, 2016 (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Abbas told the crowd in Addis Ababa that he looks forward to the “developing role and status of Africa in international forums…and we hope we can count on their brotherly support in those forums.”

The Palestinian leader said he supports Africa having a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

He also thanked the African nations who voted in favor of the recent of UNSC resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlement building. These states were Senegal, Angola, and Egypt.

But he said the prospects of realizing a two-state solution were being imperiled by moves made by Israel, apparently referring to announcements last week of approval for some 3,000 homes in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem.

“The achievement of a just and comprehensive peace through a two-state solution is in danger,” he said. “Israel is doing all that it can to undermine the chances of establishing an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem through the continuation of the occupation and the continuation of settlement building, creating a one-state reality with an apartheid system imposed on our people.”

During his speech, the Palestinian leader emphasized the need to implement the agreement of the International Peace Conference held in Paris earlier this month, in which 70 countries reaffirmed that a two-state solution is the only one acceptable, and set up an international monitoring group to help the two sides to make peace in a specific timeframe.

Abbas also said he was still willing to accept the offer of Russian President Vladimir Putin for a trilateral meeting in Moscow.

Back in September, a trilateral meeting in Moscow fell apart after the Palestinian and Israeli leaders each said the other had refused to go.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with PA President Mahmud Abbas, during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on April 13, 2015. (AFP/ POOL / SERGEI ILNITSKY)

“We reaffirm that our hands are still outstretched in peace toward our Israeli neighbors,” Abbas said.

Abbas also restated that he is “looking forward to working with US President Donald Trump and his new administration in order to reach a just and comprehensive peace in the region.”

Earlier on Monday, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the PA and the Commission of the African Union.

In the deal, according to the report in Wafa, the parties agreed to work together in various areas of development, including health, agriculture, energy, environment, water, the promotion of women’s participation in civil society, and human rights.

ABBAS MEETS KING ABDULLAH TO COORDINATE MOVES AGAINST POSSIBLE US EMBASSY RELOCATION

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah II met in Amman on Sunday to coordinate moves against the possible relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“Abbas and King Abdullah II discussed the possible ramifications of moving the American Embassy to occupied Jerusalem and agreed to take a number of measures if the embassy is relocated,” Wafa, the official PA news site, reported Sunday afternoon.
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The Palestinian leadership launched a campaign two weeks ago to appeal to the world against the possible relocation of the US Embassy.

Abbas sent letters to US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, and many other world leaders, warning that relocating would have “disastrous” consequences and spell the “destruction of the peace process.”

Trump said on Thursday that he plans to follow through with his campaign promise to relocate the embassy.

“Of course I remember what I told you about Jerusalem. Of course I didn’t forget. And you know I’m not a person who breaks promises,” Trump told Israel Hayom, an Israeli daily, referring to the relocation of the US Embassy.

According to Wafa, Abbas said that his visit to Jordan was “necessary” because King Abdullah will soon visit Washington, D.C. and Moscow.

Jordan considers itself the “guardian of Jerusalem” and takes particular concern over holy sites and other matters in the city.

Abbas added that he hopes the US administration “will stop talking about moving the embassy to Jerusalem…and engage in serious negotiations between us and the Israelis to reach a political resolution.”

Abbas at Vatican: Peace could suffer if US embassy moves

VATICAN CITY — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Saturday that peace could suffer if the incoming Trump administration goes ahead with plans to move the US embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Abbas made the comments as he inaugurated the Palestinian embassy to the Holy See following an audience with Pope Francis.

Speaking through an Italian translator, Abbas said he had only heard of the proposal by US President-elect Donald Trump to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and couldn’t comment officially unless and until it happens.

But he added: “If this is the decision, to transfer the embassy to Jerusalem, it will not help peace and we hope it doesn’t happen.”

The Palestinians strongly oppose the move, saying it would kill any hopes for negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and rile the region by undercutting Muslim and Christian claims to the holy city.

Trump hasn’t yet laid out a clear Mideast policy, but has signaled he will be more sympathetic to Israel’s hard-line right than previous administrations. He has also vowed to move the US embassy.

Abbas has written to Trump warning of the risks of such a move and asked him to reconsider, while also flagging the concern to Arab and other world leaders, said the Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad Malki.

The Vatican has long sought an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem that safeguards its sacred character. It was unclear if the Vatican would want to wade into the issue by mentioning Jerusalem in its post-audience communique.

During the meeting, Abbas presented Francis with gifts recalling Christianity’s birthplace in the Holy Land, including a stone from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and documentation about the ongoing restoration of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

After the papal meeting, Abbas formally inaugurated the new Palestinian embassy across the street from one of the main gates of Vatican City: He pulled back a curtain revealing a plaque and extended the Palestinian flag from a flagpole outside a window.

The embassy, located in the same building as the embassies of Peru, Ecuador and Burkina Faso, is a fruit of recent accords in which the Vatican formally recognized the “State of Palestine.”

In his comments to reporters, Abbas said he hoped other countries would follow the Vatican’s example and recognize the Palestinian state.

Abbas: I’ll resume talks if Israel halts settlement activity

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday he would be willing to resume peace negotiations with Israel should Jerusalem stop settlement construction and implement existing agreements.

“The minute the Israeli government agrees to cease all settlement activities… and agrees to implement the signed agreements on the basis of mutual reciprocity, the Palestinian leadership stands ready to resume permanent status negotiations on the basis of international law and relevant international legality resolutions… under a specified timeframe,” he said in a statement.

Abbas, his office said, was “fully convinced that a just, comprehensive and lasting peace can be reached in all core issues,” leading to an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

The statement added that the PA leader would “continue to cooperate closely with France, which plans to convene next month an international peace conference, in order to guarantee the launching of a credible peace process.”

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki. (AFP/Miguel Medina)

Meanwhile Abbas’s Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki rejected Kerry’s allusion to Palestinians being prepared to accept Israel as a Jewish state.

Maliki said the secretary hadn’t broken any new ground in his speech, and had simply repeated his views and summarized his positions from recent years. However, he noted that Kerry had said that “many… are now prepared to accept [Israel as a Jewish state], provided the need for a Palestinian state is also addressed.” This assertion, Maliki stressed, was “unacceptable.”

Abbas’s response to Kerry’s comments was markedly more positive than that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the speech “skewed” and “obsessive” towards settlements as well as “a big disappointment.”

The prime minister said Kerry drew a “false moral equivalence” between construction in Jerusalem and Palestinian terrorism. Kerry, he said, was only “paying lip service” in his condemnation of terrorism, while the UN resolution did not condemn Palestinian incitement, only “incitement” in general.

Kerry on Wednesday laid out his “comprehensive vision” for the future of Middle East peacemaking, saying that a two-state solution was the “only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state,” but promising that the US would not seek further UN action on the conflict, days after President Barack Obama infuriated Israel for the decision not to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement activity.

Kerry described settlements as an obstacle to achieving an agreement between the sides and that Israeli actions in the West Bank were putting the two-state solution, which he said was the sole path to peace, “in serious jeopardy.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry lays out his vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians December 28, 2016, in the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the Department of State in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS)

With less than a month left as secretary of state, Kerry sought to champion the two-state outcome he worked to achieve throughout the last four years, saying it was the only path forward. Yet his address comes against the backdrop of incoming president Donald Trump, who has signalled that he may not be committed to the two-state framework.

Kerry also had harsh words for the Palestinians, condemning their incitement to violence and glorification of terrorists, and he slammed the attempt to isolate and delegitimize Israel in the United Nations and elsewhere.

“The murders of innocents are still glorified on Fatah websites,” Kerry said, referring the movement headed by Abbas. “Despite statements by President Abbas, too often they send a different message by failing to condemn specific attacks and by naming public squares, streets and schools after terrorists.”

Ahead of the speech, The New York Times quoted a senior State Department official as saying that it would “address some of the misleading critiques” leveled at the Obama administration after Friday’s vote. This was, the Times said, a “clear reference” to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s furious response to the outcome of the vote, in particular the White House’s failure to use its veto.

UN Resolution 2334 says that the settlement enterprise “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law,” and calls for a complete end to all construction in areas Israel gained after the 1967 Six Day War. It also calls on all states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967” — language that Israel fears will lead to a surge in boycott and sanctions efforts, and that an Israeli official warned would provide “a tailwind for terror.”

The text was approved 14-0 with the United States abstaining. A no vote by the US would have meant the resolution didn’t pass.

Since Friday, Israel has accused the United States of working to initiate the resolution, including by colluding with the Palestinians to strategize over its language — an allegation Washington categorically denies.