Breaking News

Trump to meet Palestinian President Abbas

US President Donald Trump is to meet his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on the final day of his Middle East tour.

The meeting will take place later on Tuesday during Trump’s visit to the occupied territories, where he held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Abbas has expressed hope that the meeting would be “useful and fruitful” and would “bring results” on a potential resolution of the decades-long conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. There is speculation that the Palestinian president would give major concessions to the Israeli side in potential attempts to secure a deal. An official close to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) said recently that during Trump’s visit, Abbas would propose exchanging 6.5 percent of Palestinian territory with the regime of Israel, more than triple the amount put forward in a previous land-swap initiative. In a joint press conference with Netanyahu on Monday, Trump welcomed what he called the Israeli premier’s “commitment to pursuing peace,” saying, “He’s working very hard at it – it’s not easy. I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all. But I have a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually. I hope.”

This is while Netanyahu is known for having seriously dimmed the prospect of a deal with Palestinians by, among other things, catering to the demands of the far-right extremists in his ruling coalition. One manifestation of such catering has been the expansion under Netanyahu of settlement construction in occupied territories, which the Palestinians want as part of a future state.

That construction has raised concerns the world over and is specifically blamed for a failure to reach a deal already.

On his arrival in the occupied territories, Trump said there was “a rare opportunity” to bring peace to the Middle East and indicated that a deal with the Palestinians was integral to a new regional alignment.

But while Trump has boasted of his purported deal-making capabilities, it was not clear what he specifically planned to do to broker a deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis, especially given the tight grip of the Israeli far-right on Netanyahu and the vast expansion of settlements in recent years.

On Monday, Palestinians held protests against Trump’s trip. Israeli forces clashed with the demonstrators at the Qalandiya checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah. The protesters were carrying placards bearing pictures of Trump and reading “US policy is shameful to humanity.”

A similar rally was held in the city of Rafah in the Israeli-besieged Gaza Strip, where the Palestinians burnt US and Israeli flags as well as an effigy of the US president.