President Trump started his last day in the Middle East alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, vowing to work with him on the Mideast peace process and “on other important matters, such as unlocking the potential of the Palestinian economy — which is having a very rough time — and building on our very positive counterterrorism efforts.”
Trump said he’s “gratified” that Abbas is “committed to taking firm but necessary steps to fight terrorism and confront its hateful ideology.”
“And it’s so interesting that our meeting took place on this very horrible morning of death to innocent young people,” he said, referencing the late Monday bombing outside of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK.
“Peace is a choice we must make each day — and the United States is here to help make that dream possible for young Jewish, Christian and Muslim children all across the region. In so doing, we will all enjoy a safer and brighter future, and a safer and brighter world,” Trump added.
“In this spirit of hope, we come to Bethlehem, asking God for a more peaceful, safe, and far more tolerant world for all of us. I am truly hopeful that America can help Israel and the Palestinians forge peace, and bring new hope to the region and its people. I also firmly believe that if Israel and the Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East. And that would be an amazing accomplishment.”
The president was greeted in the West Bank by streets lined with U.S. and Palestinian flags joined on lampposts, as well as signs with the faces of Trump and Abbas, saying, “The City of Peace Welcomes the Man of Peace.”
Abbas said his recent visit to the White House, at which Trump likewise promised economic aid, gave “so much hope and optimism of the possibility to make true a dream, a long-awaited dream and ambition, and that is lasting and justice-based peace.”
He pressed again for 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital “as well as resolving the entire final status issues based on international law and international long-term resolutions, and respecting side agreements, which sets the tone for the implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative in accordance with what has been reaffirmed in the most recent Arab Summit in Jordan.”
“Your excellency, as you have witnessed during your — as you saw yesterday during your historic visit of holy sites in occupied East Jerusalem, and today in Bethlehem, the conflict is not between religions, for respecting religions and prophets is an integral part of our religion and faith,” Abbas added. “…Our fundamental problem is with the occupation and settlements, and failure of Israel to recognize the state of Palestine in the same way we recognize it, which undermines the realization of the two-state solution. The problem is not between us and Judaism. It’s between us and occupation.”
The Palestinian leader also demanded the Israeli government meet “humane, legitimate demands” on Palestinian prisoners.
“Achievement of peace, your excellency, the president, will give us broad horizons and prospects to recover our economy and continue building our national institutions based on rule of law and in the spirit of tolerance and coexistence, and a culture of peace, nonviolence, no incitement, and building bridges instead of walls inside our lands,” Abbas said.
After leaving the Abbas meeting, Trump visited Yad Vashem for half an hour, delivering brief remarks and signing the guest book at the Holocaust memorial. He was given the album full of pictures and writings belonging to a 16-year-old girl who died at Auschswitz.
The president was joined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who declared, “No matter where it occurs, in Manchester, San Bernardino or Jerusalem, terror is terror is terror. We must all unite to defeat it.”
Trump called the Holocaust “history’s darkest hour.”
“This place, and this entire nation, are a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people — and the hope that light can shine the path beyond the darkness. Through persecution, oppression, death, and destruction, the Jewish people have persevered. They have thrived. They’ve become so successful in so many places. And they have enlightened the world,” Trump said. “The state of Israel is a strong and soaring monument to the solemn pledge we repeat and affirm: Never again.”
Before leaving the Mideast and heading to Rome, Trump spoke at the Israel Museum and called upon “Jews, Christians, Muslims, and every faith, every tribe, every creed — to draw inspiration from this ancient city, to set aside our sectarian differences, to overcome oppression and hatred, and to give all children the freedom and hope and dignity written into our souls.”
“Conflict cannot continue forever. The only question is when nations will decide that they have had enough — enough bloodshed, enough killing,” he added, noting “Iran’s leaders routinely call for Israel’s destruction — not with Donald J. Trump, believe me.”
“There are those who present a false choice. They say that we must choose between supporting Israel and supporting Arab and Muslim nations in the region. That is completely wrong. All decent people want to live in peace, and all humanity is threatened by the evils of terrorism. Diverse nations can unite around the goal of protecting innocent life, upholding human dignity, and promoting peace and stability in the region,” he said.
“My administration is committed to pursuing such a coalition, and we have already made substantial progress during this trip. We know, for instance, that both Israelis and Palestinians seek lives of hope for their children. And we know that peace is possible if we put aside the pain and disagreements of the past and commit together to finally resolving this crisis, which has dragged on for nearly half a century or more.”
Referencing his morning meeting with Abbas, Trump assured the Israeli audience that “the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace.”
“I know you’ve heard it before. I am telling you — that’s what I do. They are ready to reach for peace,” he added. “…Making peace, however, will not be easy. We all know that. Both sides will face tough decisions. But with determination, compromise, and the belief that peace is possible, Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal.”
Trump wrote in the Yad Vashem guest book: “It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends — so amazing and will never forget!”