US President Donald Trump has succeeded in persuading Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas to make the kind of concessions that will enable the diplomatic process to move forward, World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder told Israeli politicians at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York.Lauder is the Jewish leader closest to Trump: their families have been friends for decades; he has free access to the president; and he has advised him on how to advance diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East. He also has built up ties with Arab leaders for decades and was Netanyahu’s unofficial envoy to Syria in the latter’s first term as prime minister.Behind the scenes at the conference, Lauder briefed ministers Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Ofir Akunis, as well as opposition leader Isaac Herzog on his impressions from talking to Trump about how to solve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.“Trump is very optimistic that he can renew the peace process,” one of the politicians told The Jerusalem Post after speaking to Lauder. “Lauder understands from Trump that he believes Abbas can be convinced by him and Arab leaders to come back to the table and make concessions.”
Lauder served as president of the conference.Bennett, Shaked and Akunis, in their speeches at the conference, emphasized their opposition to a Palestinian state and continually denigrated the Palestinian Authority and Abbas.Ahead of his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority later this month, Trump will make his first foreign stop as president in Saudi Arabia. The visit is intended to show that Trump respects the Muslim world and to seek Saudi help in advancing a regional approach to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Trump hosted Abbas at the White House last week and has met recently with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan. The politicians who spoke with Lauder said Trump was counting on the Arab leaders to add to his own pressure on Abbas to concede.Herzog revealed at the conference that he had offered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a parliamentary safety net for concessions in a peace process led by Trump.Interviewed on stage by Post Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz, Herzog praised Trump while questioning Netanyahu’s goals on the Palestinian issue.“So far, Trump’s peace efforts have been impeccable,” Herzog said. “We know what Trump wants. What Netanyahu wants, no one knows. I have grave doubts about Bibi’s intentions.If he wants peace, he will enjoy political support even from my camp. But if he opts for what Bibi usually wants, he will find us a fierce opposition and we will replace him as soon as possible.”Herzog said the only way to bring about a change in power in Israel is to form a strong centrist bloc with other centrist movements. He invited former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon to join such a bloc, along with fellow former IDF chiefs Ehud Barak, Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi; rebel Yisrael Beytenu MK Orly Levy-Abecassis; and MKs in Kulanu.“Together, we can present a clear, centrist vision for Israel,” Herzog said.Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said she disagrees with Herzog, calling Ya’alon too right-wing to lead a centrist bloc of parties that would challenge Netanyahu.
Trump-Abbas meeting in Washington. (Reuters)