Nabil Shaath, a senior foreign policy adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said Thursday that anyone who expects the Palestinian leadership to halt payments to Palestinian prisoners serving sentences in Israeli security prisons must be "mad." During an interview with Israel Radio, he added that such a demand would severely damage any prospects of Middle East peace negotiations.Shaath also stated that "the prisoners are victims of Israel and the result of the occupation," and likened the demand to halt payments to the prisoners, some of whom are convicted murderers, to asking Israel to stop paying the salaries of its soldiers." The senior adviser, however, said that Trump's invitation to Abbas was a good starting point between the Palestinian Authority and the new US administration, expressing his "appreciation" for the "respectful" approach of the president in an attempt to relaunch the peace process. The request for the Palestinian Authority to cease from making payments to the families of prisoners has been raised by Israel repeatedly. Senior officials had stressed the importance of the issue to their counterparts in Washington ahead of the Wednesday meeting between the American and Palestinian presidents.Shaath's statement came the day after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the president wanted Abbas to "resolve" the PA's policy of paying terrorists and their families a monthly income. Spicer added that Trump told his Palestinian counterpart, who arrived in Washington on Wednesday afternoon, that the PA must also cease incitement broadcasted on Palestinian television.
Hosting Abbas for his first official visit to the White House under the new administration, Trump announced during a joint press conference that the US is launching a new diplomatic effort to reach a comprehensive peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, confidently stating that "we will get a deal done" between the the two-sides. “We’ll start a process which hopefully will lead to peace,” Trump said in the Roosevelt Room. “Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Let’s see if we can prove them wrong.”Peace requires Palestinian leadership to speak with a united voice against incitement, the president added: “There’s such hatred,” he said. But Trump did not ask for specific commitments from Abbas in public.“We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump told Abbas. “We will get it done. We will be working so hard to get it done. It’s been a long time, but we will be working diligently – and I think there’s a very, very good chance. And I think you feel the same way.”Abbas said he looked forward to working with Trump in order to “come to that deal, to that historical agreement to bring about peace,” but then laid out familiar terms that have become increasingly unpalatable for Israelis: a sovereign Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem and borders based on lines from before the 1967 Six Day War.“It’s about time for Israel to end its occupation of our people and our land,” the PA president said. “We are coming into a new opportunity, a new horizon that would enable us to bring about peace.”Michael Wilner contributed to this report.
Trump-Abbas meeting in Washington. (Reuters)