Mideast peace won’t be easy: Trump

Mideast peace won’t be easy: Trump
Palestinian protesters shout slogans and hold placards outside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem during a demonstration in support of prisoners refusing food in Israeli jails, on Tuesday during a visit of US President Donald Trump to the West Bank town. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2017
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Mideast peace won’t be easy: Trump

Mideast peace won’t be easy: Trump

JERUSALEM: US President Donald Trump called on Israelis and Palestinians to make compromises for peace on Tuesday as he wrapped up a closely watched visit, but offered no specifics on how he would resolve the decades-old conflict.
In a speech toward the end of his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Trump offered a forceful defense of the Jewish state and pledged to protect the country against common enemies, including Iran.
But he also touched on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, again vowing he was “personally committed” to helping the two sides reach a deal. After weeks earlier flashing his trademark bravado by saying the “ultimate deal” could be easier than “people have thought,” he seemed to acknowledge the complexities that have bedevilled his predecessors.
“Making peace however will not be easy,” Trump told an audience of Israeli politicians and other dignitaries at the Israel Museum.
“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.”
He however offered no specifics on how he planned to make progress in resolving the conflict, with widespread skepticism over whether meaningful talks are possible for now.
In what may concern peace advocates, he did not specifically mention the two-state solution, long the focus of international efforts and US Middle East diplomacy.
The parts of the speech offering a robust defense of Israel drew loud applause, which seemed to energize Trump on the second leg of his first foreign trip since taking office. After mentioning threats to Israel from Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran, he said, “not with Donald J. Trump,” drawing enthusiastic applause.
“I like you too,” Trump said when the audience quieted. Trump’s speech came after he met Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank earlier in the day.
On Monday, he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and he is due to depart for Rome later Tuesday.
Trump also laid a wreath and spoke at a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
The visit follows an initial leg in Saudi Arabia, where he urged Islamic leaders to confront extremism.
Abbas had sought to convince the unpredictable US president to remain committed to an independent Palestinian state.
Trump had arrived in Bethlehem by motorcade, crossing a checkpoint at Israel’s controversial separation wall, and was greeted by Abbas and other dignitaries outside the city’s presidential palace.
Abbas reiterated his call for a two-state solution to the conflict, including a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.
“We are ready to open dialogue with our Israeli neighbors to build confidence and create a real opportunity for peace,” he said after talks with Trump.
Bethlehem also holds deep significance as the site where Christians believe Jesus was born and welcomes thousands of pilgrims each year for Christmas.
A banner hung in the city said “the city of peace welcomes the man of peace” along with photos of Abbas and Trump.
Their talks came with hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails on hunger strike since April 17, which Abbas referred to in his remarks after meeting Trump.
On Monday, Palestinians also held a general strike in support of the prisoners.