Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is prepared to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under the good offices of US President Donald Trump, Channel 2 reported on Wednesday.Trump is expected to issue invitations to a trilateral summit when he visits Jerusalem and Bethlehem later this month, according to television station i24.The London-based, pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper similarly reported that Trump intended to announce such a summit during his Jerusalem visit.In a press conference in Ramallah on Tuesday Abbas said, “We affirmed to [Trump] that we are ready to cooperate with him and meet the Israeli prime minister under his auspices in order to make peace,” Abbas said.For the last eight years, he has made two primary demands as a precondition for talks; the release of Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails and a freeze of all West Bank settlement activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.Direct talks between Abbas and Netanyahu were rare during the Obama administration.The last substantive meeting between the two leaders took place in 2010.A nine-month, US-brokered peace process that fell apart in 2014 did not include direct Netanyahu-Abbas talks.
Netanyahu has persistently called on Abbas to meet with him without preconditions.Separately, the White House on Wednesday rejected reports that Trump had decided not to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.“The president has not made a decision yet – he’s still reviewing it,” deputy White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, on Trump’s deliberations over moving the embassy to Jerusalem. “As soon as we have a decision, I know we’ll be happy to report back.”Netanyahu’s office confirmed it had not received any notice from Washington with regard to the embassy.“Israel’s position is that all embassies, particularly the US Embassy, should be in Israel’s capital – Jerusalem,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.There is speculation that if Trump were to relocate the embassy, he would announce it during his visit now planned for May 22-23.Palestinian and Arab leaders have warned the US against the move, saying it would trigger violence in Israel and elsewhere.The US Congress passed a law in 1995 mandating the move of the embassy to Jerusalem, but allowed the president a waiver. Each president since then has exercised the waiver every six months, citing the national security interests of the United States.The next waiver would need to be exercised at the end of this month.In early March, an official United States delegation led by Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) briefly visited Israel to study the possibility of moving the embassy.While Trump had promised to relocate the embassy during his run for the White House, since his January 20 inauguration, his lukewarm statements about the matter led many to speculate that he would not make good on his pledge.JTA and Michael Wilner in Washington contributed to this report.
Trump-Abbas meeting in Washington. (Reuters)