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Middle East: Can Trump achieve 'ultimate deal'?

May 23, 2017

Donald Trump has told Israelis that "Palestinians are ready to reach for peace." The comments followed a meeting earlier in the day with his counterpart in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

USA Trump Besuch in Bethlehem
Image: Reuters/J. Ernst

Trying to move beyond pain and disagreements at home, US President Donald Trump told Israelis and Palestinians to move beyond the "pain and disagreements of the past." The appeal for peace concludes Trump's first visit to the Middle East in his new role.

"Making peace, however, will not be easy," Trump, who assumed the presidency in January, said of the seven-decade conflict. "We all know that. Both sides will face tough decisions. But, with determination, compromise and the belief that peace is possible, Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal."

Trump spoke shortly after he met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a day after talks with Israel's prime minister

On Monday, Benjamin Netanyahu praised Trump for visiting Israel and said he was optimistic about "real hope for change" in the Middle East.

In his final remarks in the nation, Trump also addressed other regional conflicts. "Iran's leaders routinely call for Israel's destruction," he said. "Not with Donald J. Trump."

And, at Israel's Vad Vashem Holocaust memorial, Trump displayed a sense of gravitas, calling Nazi Germany's extermination of 6 million Jews "the most savage crime against God and his children." In all capitals in the guestbook, he added: "IT IS A GREAT HONOR TO BE HERE WITH ALL OF MY FRIENDS - SO AMAZING AND WILL NEVER FORGET!"

Netanyahu thanked Trump for a speech "that in so few words said so much."

USA Israel Trump und Netanjahu Israel Museum in Jerusalem
Netanyahu (right) supports Trump's wish to build a wall on the US border with MexicoImage: Reuters/R. Zvulun

'Occupation and settlements'

Trump portrayed himself during his presidential campaign as something of an artist when it comes to negotiations and has billed peace between Israelis and Palestinians as his "ultimate deal." By Tuesday, he seemed to believe he had the necessary parties on board. "President Abbas assures me he is ready to work towards that goal in good faith," he said, "and Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the same."

In their remarks on Tuesday, none of the leaders mentioned what specific steps they might take toward achieving peace.

Abbas said he would "keep the door open to dialogue with our Israeli neighbors," but called on those neighbors to respect Palestinian self-determination. "Our problem is not with the Jewish religion," Abbas said. "It's with the occupation and settlements - and with Israel not recognizing the state of Palestine."

mkg/blc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)