Donald Trump departs Israel declaring that peace deal is possible
US president holds talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem
US president Donald Trump shakes hands with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas after they held a joint press conference in Bethlehem on Tuesday. Photograph: Atef Safadi/EPA
In a keynote address at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the last stop of his whirlwind trip before he departed for the Vatican, Mr Trump indicated that Washington was ready to support peace efforts. However, critically, he failed to announce the resumption of bilateral peace negotiations or a regional summit and there was no mention of a Palestinian state nor the two-state solution.
“I had a meeting this morning with [Palestinian] president [Mahmoud] Abbas and can tell you that the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace,” Mr Trump said.
“In my meeting with my very good friend Binyamin [Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister], I can tell you also, that he is reaching for peace. He wants peace,” he said. “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.”
Conflict, he said, “cannot continue forever. The question is when nations will decide when they have had enough”, adding that “Change can only come from within.”
He also spoke of the threats Israelis face. “Israelis have experienced firsthand the hatred and terror of radical violence. They have been murdered by terrorists wielding knives and bombs. Hamas and Hizbullah shoot missiles into Israel where children are taught to run into bomb shelters. Iran’s leaders routinely call for Israel’s destruction,” Mr Trump said. “Not with Donald J Trump. Believe me,” he vowed, earning an enthusiastic round of applause.
There was no mention of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, an indication that the embassy will remain in Tel Aviv.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Abbas told Mr Trump during a meeting in Bethlehem that the Palestinians were committed to a two-state solution based on 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as their capital, and called for support for the Arab peace initiative.
“As you saw yesterday during your visit of holy sites in occupied east Jerusalem, the conflict is not between religions,” Mr Abbas said.
“We are keen to open the door to dialogue with our Israeli neighbours in order to create a genuine peace. Our problem is with the occupation and settlements and the failure of Israel to recognise the state of Palestine in the same way we recognise it. The problem is not between us and Judaism; it is between us and occupation.”
Mr Trump said he was “gratified” that Mr Abbas had attended the summit in Riyadh and “committed to taking firm but necessary steps to fight terrorism and confront its hateful ideology”.
“Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded,” he added, apparently referring to payments made by Abbas’s Palestinian Authority to the families of militant Palestinian prisoners.
Mr Abbas welcomed Mr Trump’s “noble and possible peace mission”.