Trump's meeting with Abbas begins

Trump's meeting with Abbas begins

Yet on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said during a lunch with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians is "maybe not as hard as people have thought over the years".

Trump has made clear that the details do not matter much to him, and he has abandoned the longtime U.S. commitment to the so-called two-state solution.

Mr Abbas, speaking through a translator, told Mr Trump that under "your courageous stewardship and your wisdom, as well as your great negotiations ability", the Palestinians would be partners seeking a "historic peace treaty".

The last round of US -brokered peace talks collapsed in 2014.

But in a February news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump broke with longtime USA policy by raising the idea of a one-state peace agreement, withholding clear support for an independent Palestine.

Trump was expected to pressure Abbas to end payments to families of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails, one of several actions Washington believes could lead to resumed peace talks with Israel.

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"I affirm to you that you are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace", Abbas said.

"I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians".

Eighty-two-year-old Abbas - a veteran of innumerable US, European, UN and Arab peace initiatives - echoed Trump's upbeat tone.

"Mr. President, with you we have hope", Abbas said.

Trump said he had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, adding that he would "do whatever is necessary" to reach an agreement. Alan Baker, a former Israeli ambassador who participated in the negotiating and drafting of the 1993 Oslo Accords, says the time may be right to push for regional peace.

An Israeli-Palestinian peace deal has eluded every president in modern history. For Abbas and the Palestinians, there is only one solution.

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That move would likely spark Palestinian fury and is privately seen by many in the Israel and USA security establishments as needlessly inflammatory.

"But I would love to be a mediator or an arbitrator of a facilitator, and we will get this done", Trump added.

The meeting comes amid the Trump administration's efforts to lay the groundwork for brokering a lasting peace between Palestine and Israel.

The peace process has been stalled since 2014, and there have been no serious attempts to restart negotiations.

Trump and Abbas were to spend much of the day together at the White House.

Just last week, Trump spoke about his desire for peace in the Middle East, telling Reuters that "there is no reason there's not peace between Israel and the Palestinians - none whatsoever". The deal would not just be about a peaceful, two-state solution, but also about solving the issue of refugees and prisoners "according to worldwide law".

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Trump praised Abbas for opposing violence and terrorism, and said that he was "very impressed" to learn about the security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.

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