Fresh optimism on peace process as Trump devotes his 'heart and soul' to deal
Palestinian leader asks UN to end the 'apartheid' regime of Israel
Hopes of reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process blossomed over New York on Wednesday as Donald Trump pledged to devote his heart and soul to reaching an agreement.
The American president made his promise following critical meetings with Palestinian, Jordanian, and Egyptian leaders.
“I think we have a pretty good shot, maybe the best shot ever,” Mr Trump said at the beginning of his meeting — his third this year — with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. He could make no promises, he added, but promised “devote everything within my heart and within my soul to get that deal made.”
He hinted at regional support for an agreement from Arab states, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. “Who knows? Stranger things have happened,” he said.
Mr Trump's upbeat tone appeared to rub off on the Palestinian leader who also saw hope in any potential peace talks brokered by the Americans. “This gives us the assurance and the confidence that we are on the verge of real peace” Mr Abbas said.
The Palestinian leader praised Mr Trump’s “seriousness” and determination. He took the fact that there had been more than 20 meetings with the US delegation since January 20, as a sign of US commitment to achieving a solution.
After wishing the Jewish people a happy new year, Mr Abbas assured the American delegation US side that they would encounter "utmost seriousness on our part to achieve peace … we can coexist peacefully together.”
Mr Abbas urged the United Nations to end what he described as an "apartheid" regime imposed by Israel in the Palestinian territories.
"We are entrusted and you are entrusted to end apartheid in Palestine," he told the UN General Assembly in an address that lasted nearly 45 minutes - 30 minutes longer than the allotted time. "Can the world accept an apartheid regime in the 21st century?"
Taking the podium a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Abbas slammed Israel over the construction of new settlements "everywhere," saying they were putting the two-state solution in jeopardy.
"There is no place left for the state of Palestine and this is not acceptable," he said.
Rights group blasts Israeli banks for settlement expansion
The United Nations considers settlements illegal under international law and the Security Council in December adopted a resolution demanding an end to the expansion of the Jewish outposts on the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The resolution passed after the United States under the previous administration of Barack Obama declined to use its veto and instead abstained.
The Palestinian leader vowed to push for full recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations, a move that would require approval from the Security Council where the United States, Israel's key ally, holds veto power.
A Palestinian diplomat told The National that Mr Abbas is waiting for specific ideas from the US side on its vision for peace. These ideas are being prepared by the US envoy Jason Greenblatt, Mr Trump’s advisers Dina Powell and Jared Kushner — also his son-in-law — who visited the region last month. For the Palestinians any framework for peace must include a clear commitment to a two-state solution — something that neither Mr Trump nor Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have committed to so far.
Mr Trump’s meeting with the Palestinian president was one of three with Middle Eastern leaders on Wednesday. Earlier in the day he hosted King Abdullah of Jordan and was expected to meet his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah Sisi later in the evening.
Mr Sisi made the Palestinian-Israeli peace push a central part of his UNGA speech. He called upon both leaders to take advantage of an opportunity that "may not repeat itself."
Egypt is making headway in its mediation efforts between the Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas which could unify their ranks in any peace talks.
Addressing the Israeli public, Mr Sisi said "do not hesitate … we are standing with you to make this step a success." He also encouraged Mr Trump to "write a new page of the history of mankind by establishing peace in this region of the world."
Mr Trump discussed the peace process, counter-ISIL efforts and de-escalation zones in Syria with the King of Jordan. Mr Trump called the King “our partner and ally for a long time.” adding that the “relationship has not been better than it is right now,” and thanked Jordan for its efforts on taking in refugees.
King Abdullah praised the “special relationship between our two countries and how closely we work together” reminding everyone that this is their fourth meeting this year. The two leaders stressed their united front in fighting terrorism.
“Terrorism is a scourge around the world, but I think Jordan will always stand beside you and your country. And we will overcome” King Abdullah said.
Updated: September 20, 2017 11:15 PM