WASHINGTON — President Trump lauded Mahmoud Abbas for fighting terrorism during the Palestinian Authority president’s visit to the White House today, noting “there’s such hatred” among Abbas’ people “but hopefully there won’t be such hatred for very long.”
Trump said it was “a great honor” to welcome Abbas before the two began a brief Oval Office meeting. He did not respond to questions from the press pool about whether he is still considering moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
During joint remarks afterward in the Roosevelt Room, with Abbas standing before an American flag and Trump in front of a Palestinian flag, Trump said he wants “to support [Abbas] in being the Palestinian leader who signs his name to the final and most important peace agreement that brings safety, stability, prosperity to both peoples and to the region.”
“And I will do whatever is necessary to facilitate the agreement, to mediate, to arbitrate, anything they’d like to do,” he said. “But I would love to be a mediator, or an arbitrator, or a facilitator, and we will get this done.”
“…I know President Abbas has spoken out against ISIS and other terrorist groups. And we must continue to build our partnership with the Palestinian Security Forces to counter and defeat terrorism.”
Trump said he and Abbas would also discuss “my administration’s effort to help unlock the potential of the Palestinian people through new economic opportunities.”
“I look forward to welcoming him back as a great mark of progress and ultimately toward the signing of a document with the Israelis and with Israel toward peace,” he added. “We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We will get it done.”
Abbas said he looked forward to working with Trump on a peace plan “based on the vision of the two state, a Palestinian state, with its capital of East Jerusalem that lives in peace and stability with the state of Israel based on the borders of 1967.”
He added that ISIS, which is active in Gaza, has “nothing to do with our noble religion.”
“We believe that we are capable and able to bring about success to our efforts, because, Mr. President, you have the determination and you have the desire to see it become to fruition and to become successful. And we, Mr. President, inshallah, God willing, we are coming into a new opportunity, a new horizon… Mr. President, it’s about time for Israel to end its occupation of our people and of our land after 50 years.”
Abbas assured Trump that Palestinians “are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace.”
“Mr. President, I believe that we are capable under your leadership and your stewardship, your courageous stewardship and your wisdom, we are — and as well as your great negotiating ability — I believe with the grace of God and will all of your effort, we believe that we can become — we can be partners — true partners,” Abbas said.
“We’ll start a process which hopefully will lead to peace,” Trump said. “Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let’s see if we can prove them wrong, OK?”
“OK,” Abbas replied.
After their statements, Trump and Abbas sat down for a steak and halibut lunch with cabinet members.
“It’s a great honor to have President Abbas with us,” Trump said before they ate. “We are having lunch together. We will be discussing details of what has proven to be a very difficult situation between Israel and the Palestinians. Let’s see if we can find the solution. It’s something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years. We need two willing parties. We believe Israel is willing. We believe you’re willing. And if you are willing, we are going to make a deal.”
He then invited Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to add his thoughts. “I think it’s a historic opportunity because there are a number of positive conditions in place, and I know under your leadership that we hope good things will happen,” Tillerson replied.
“I just want to welcome the president and his entire delegation here to the White House,” Vice President Mike Pence chimed in, telling the Palestinian leader “it is good to see you again.”
“My family had the privilege of your hospitality during a Christmas visit just a few short years ago,” Pence said.
“He’s made great progress, you see,” Trump added
Before media were ushered out, Peter Alexander of NBC News asked Trump if he was going to visit Israel.
“You would ask me that question,” Trump replied.