Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his accompanying entourage arrived in Washington on Monday for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday in the White House.
Abbas is accompanied by Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee and head of the Palestinian negotiating team Dr. Saeb Erekat and Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj. The visit’s itinerary includes a closed-door meeting between Abbas and Trump followed by an extended meeting that involves senior officials from both sides.
During his visit to Washington, Abbas will also meet with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other US officials. The PA chairman is also expected to meet with senior American Jewish community leaders and ambassadors from Arab countries. Abbas came to DC with the full support of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah.
“Things look better than we expected,” a senior official in the Palestinian Authority told Ynet. “We’re coming to this summit with the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem no longer on the agenda and after very useful visits by the emissary Jason Greenblatt and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.”
However, the official added that despite Trump’s statements about his desire to reach a final deal that will bring about a solution to the conflict, they are not especially hopeful that these efforts will be successful because of their assessment that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cannot and does not want to reach a two-state solution.
“Netanyahu wants to leave the two-state solution alive only at the international level, but at the same time he is killing this solution on the local level, on the ground,” said the senior official.
The only area that may be promoted in talks, according to assessments in Ramallah, is the economy. Abbas’ entourage in Washington was joined by Palestinian Investment Fund Chairman Dr. Muhammad Mustafa and Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Ziad Abu Amr, who specializes in economics.
“We believe that what the Americans can offer now is only economic easements and gestures,” the senior Palestinian official said. He added that the Palestinians had presented their positions to the Americans but had heard nothing from them about their plans.
“We do not know if the American administration intends to do anything to stop construction in the settlements or if they even intend to use the summit with Abu Mazen in regards to the two-state solution,” he said, referring to Abbas by his nom de guerre.
Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub commented, “We are more convinced than ever that with impartial support from the United States, a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is still possible, even if it looks far away today.”
As of Tuesday evening, White House spokesmen insist that neither a press conference is expected at the end of the meeting nor a joint declaration, nor a photo opportunity. However, the plans may change.
When the Israeli prime minister arrived at the White House, the hosts announced that there would be no press conference and no communication, and only on the morning of the visit did they change the plan and finally held a joint press conference with dozens of reporters.