Expectations low for Trump’s Bethlehem visit

No details have emerged about US president’s plan to revive stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a joint news conference at the presidential headquarters in the West Bank town of Bethlehem
US President Donald Trump met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the presidential palace in Bethlehem [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

Bethlehem – US President Donald Trump has arrived in Bethlehem to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in hopes of restarting stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

But the meeting on Tuesday comes amid low expectations for the long-held Palestinian demands of a freeze on Israeli settlement construction and a clear timeframe to end the occupation.

Instead of a complete Israeli settlement construction freeze, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah may be asked to accept a settlement slowdown, analysts say.

“We shouldn’t exaggerate [our] expectations. Trump may find it to be easy to launch negotiations, but he cannot guarantee the results; we have been negotiating for 25 years and we should learn not to repeat previous mistakes,” Palestinian political analyst Ali Jarbawi told Al Jazeera.

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At a news conference in Bethlehem’s presidential palace, Abbas stressed the need for a two-state solution, noting: “I hope that history will mark Trump as the man who achieved peace … Freedom for our people is key to stability in the region.”

Trump pledged to work towards this goal, but analysts have pointed out that strengthened US-Israeli ties under his administration do not bode well for a solution to the long-standing conflict.


Palestinian and US flags were hung on streetlight poles along the path of Trump’s motorcade to the presidential palace. When Trump arrived at the palace around 10am local time, the Palestinian and US national anthems were played.

Tuesday marked the third meeting between the two leaders in May. Abbas met Trump at the beginning of May in the White House, and a second meeting recently followed in Riyadh, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Trump’s Bethlehem visit follows the US president’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in West Jerusalem. No details have emerged about Trump’s plan to revive the stalled peace talks.

“Trump didn’t speak of [Palestinians’] right to self-determination. He didn’t speak of the two-state solution … and they will probably be disappointed that Trump did not say what his plans were or his vision was,” said Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Bethlehem.

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Before his meeting with Netanyahu on Monday, Trump visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall, becoming the first sitting US president to visit the holy Jewish site. The move was seen as a gesture of support for Jewish claims to the site.

“This visit was to gratify the Israeli public opinion,” Sheikh Omar Kiswane, the imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque, told Al Jazeera.

Trump did not visit the Noble Sanctuary, the Muslim site that houses the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is just steps from the Western Wall.

Scouts from the Jerusalem Arab Orthodox Club had planned to accompany Trump on his visit to the Holy Sepulchre, but Israeli police objected to the Palestinian flag that was embroidered on their uniforms. 

“The Israeli police were adamant that the scouts remove the flag from their costumes, so it was agreed with the Americans to cancel the club’s participation,” the club said in a statement issued on Monday. “The club has been in Jerusalem since before the creation of Israel, and thus the flag is not simply an item on a uniform; it is part of who we are.”

Source: Al Jazeera