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Trump reportedly considering pulling out of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

June 25, 2017 5:17 P.M. (Updated: June 28, 2017 10:34 P.M.)
US President Donald Trump (AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was reportedly left “furious” by a recent meeting with US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, according to a report Saturday from London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat that also implied Trump was weighing whether or not to pull out of peace negotiations.

Anonymous Palestinian officials told al-Hayat that Abbas was outraged by the Ramallah meeting with Kushner -- who was accompanied by lead US international negotiator Jason Greenblatt -- after Kushner relayed Israeli demands that reportedly included a request that the Palestinian Authority (PA) stop paying compensation to the families of Palestinian prisoners.

Abbas reportedly accused Kushner and Greenblatt of taking Israel's side and refused to commit to the request. The Palestinian president had already defended the payments as a “social responsibility,” and said Israel was using the issue as a pretext to avoid peace talks.

The Americans had supposedly first called for all payments made to the families of Palestinians prisoners to be halted altogether, with American officials reportedly describing the payments “as a means of inciting terror.”

However, the Times of Israel reported after the meeting that the new, "watered down" demands requested that the PA stop paying compensation to the families of some 600 Palestinian prisoners serving life sentences and who are responsible for the deaths of Israelis.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz also reported that Palestinian officials were “greatly disappointed” by their meeting with Kushner and Greenblatt. "They sounded like (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu's advisers and not like fair arbiters," a senior Palestinian official told the newspaper.

Al-Hayat’s report claimed that Trump was trying to determine the future of reigniting Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in the near future, including the possibility of withdrawing completely from the process altogether.

"(Kushner) will submit his report to the president and, after it is submitted, Trump will decide if there's a chance for negotiations or it might be preferable to pull out of peace efforts," the official told the al-Hayat, according to a translation by Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post.

However, a The Jerusalem Post cited a response from a senior US official who called the report "nonsense."

The al-Hayat report also claimed that the Trump administration disapproved of Abbas for failing to denounce a deadly stabbing attack in occupied East Jerusalem last week.

PLO Secretary General Dr. Saeb Erekat released a statement following the meeting between Abbas and Kushner, saying “we totally reject the Israeli allegations about Palestinian official incitement.”

Erekat accused Israel of “inventing new excuses,” and trying to “deviate attention” with claims like incitement, “every time there is a chance for peace.”

“Unlike the Israeli government, we are a leadership committed to the two-state solution and the full implementation of international law,” Erekat said, highlighting that “Israel has constantly refused to activate the trilateral committee on incitement (Palestine-Israel-United States) given that incitement and glorification of terror have been a longstanding policy by this (Israeli) extremist government.”

“We call upon the Israeli government to stop trying to find excuses to perpetuate its illegal colonial settlement occupation and systematic denial of Palestinian rights. Instead, it should work to fully end its 50-year military occupation towards achieving a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine,” the statement concluded.

Trump has repeatedly said peace between Israelis and Palestinians was something he could achieve as president. “I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said in April. "There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians -- none whatsoever.”

After meeting with Abbas last month, Trump said finding a peace agreement would be easier than expected. "Let's see if we can find the solution,” Trump said during a luncheon with Abbas and his advisers. “It's something that, I think, is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”
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