Donald Trump ends Middle East tour

US president calls for peace between Israelis and Palestinians but sheds little clarity on how to achieve that.

Abbas extends his hand to Trump during their remarks after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem
Trump placed blame for the lack of a settlement at the door of the Palestinians [Reuters]

US President Donald Trump has wrapped up a two-day visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories where he met Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Speaking to a group of Israelis in occupied Jerusalem on Tuesday, Trump said he is “personally committed to helping Israelis and Palestinians achieve a peace agreement”.

During his talk at the Israel Museum, Trump placed the blame for the lack of a reached settlement between Israelis and Palestinians at the door of the Palestinians.

Trump holds talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials

He said that his meetings earlier in the day with Abbas led him to believe that “the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace”.

Palestinians across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip staged protests for days during his visit, including most recently on Tuesday where they also called for solidarity with the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails who have begun their sixth week of a hunger strike.

Protesters also rejected Trump’s portrayal of the Palestinian faction Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, as a “terrorist” group.

On Tuesday, Trump once again rejected the possibility of Hamas playing a role in any negotiations.

He said that a coalition of partners would have to be formed to combat “extremism”, mentioning by name Hamas, along with the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah and Iran.

Delivering a joint statement with Abbas in Bethlehem, Trump said: “The terrorists and extremists, and those who give them aid and comfort, must be driven out from our society forever.”

Trump was unclear what measures this confrontation would entail. He also did not speak in detail about how negotiations would start between Israelis and Palestinians.

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“This visit has been quite high on performance and symbolism and quite low on substance,” Tareq Baconi, a policy adviser for Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network, told Al Jazeera.

“We are not talking about any of the substantive issues that would lead us towards a peace deal, not talking about Palestinian sovereignty, statehood, an end of the settlements or an end of the blockade [on Gaza].”

Lack of clarity

A settlement leader from the occupied West Bank said that he believed this lack of clarity regarding Trump’s statements in Bethlehem could mean he has abandoned a goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state.

Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy of the Yesha settlers’ council, noted that Trump made no mention of Palestinian independence during his statement with Abbas, and only spoke of “peace”, the Associated Press reported.

“We can keep going through the charade of a peace process on and on. Ultimately there isn’t a single concession the Palestinians can make now that would lead towards a peace deal,” Baconi saod.

“Israel has no reason to relinquish its control of the Palestinian territories. Right now, the occupation is cost free for Israel, if not profitable. We need to understand the situation as one where there’s an occupier and an occupied.

“Unless the US can bring pressure to bear on the occupier, there’s no incentive for Israel to relinquish that control.”

Palestinian activists have also noted that Trump’s rhetoric with regard to Israel and Palestine is no different from previous US administrations.

Trump left Israel and headed to Rome, the next destination on his four-nation, five-stop tour of the Middle East and Europe.

He will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on Wednesday. 

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Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies