Trump Hosts Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will visit the White House Wednesday. NPR's Steve Inskeep speaks with a former adviser to the Palestinian Authority, Ghaith al-Omari.
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Trump Hosts Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

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Trump Hosts Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Trump Hosts Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Trump Hosts Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/526690263/526690264" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will visit the White House Wednesday. NPR's Steve Inskeep speaks with a former adviser to the Palestinian Authority, Ghaith al-Omari.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Trump wants to see Israel and the Palestinians reach a peace deal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There is no reason there's not peace between Israel and the Palestinians, none whatsoever.

INSKEEP: And today, President Trump hosts Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House. We're going to talk about this with Ghaith al-Omari, who is here in our studios. He served in various positions within the Palestinian Authority. Thanks for coming by.

GHAITH AL-OMARI: Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: Is President Trump, from a Palestinian point of view, an honest broker?

AL-OMARI: You know, the issue of an honest broker is not an issue that the Palestinians think about too much. For the Palestinians, the U.S. is an effective broker. And that's much more important than things like honest or in certain such abstract concepts.

INSKEEP: And so are you hopeful that President Trump is a person who could move Israelis and Palestinians toward a two-state solution or a solution? He doesn't seem to care what the solution is.

AL-OMARI: What is very clear is that he is committed towards doing something. What is less clear is how he is going to do it. Things are complicated. The issues are complicated. There is no trust between the leaders. And on the Palestinian side, at least, there are domestic political problems that can be an obstacle and so in Israel. So unless we deal with these, I don't see how we can move forward.

INSKEEP: I guess one of the domestic political problems is whether Mahmoud Abbas is really the leader of the Palestinians, given that Hamas has great power, and he doesn't control all the territory.

AL-OMARI: That's one of the problems, the Hamas-PA split with Hamas controlling Gaza, the PA, the West Bank. But even within the West Bank itself, there are challenges to his legitimacy from his own political party. There has been no election for around 14 years now. So these are all issues that has to - have to be dealt with before we can actually make the difficult decisions needed for peace to be achieved.

INSKEEP: So President Trump from the outside can seem to have evolved on this. He started out in the campaign saying, first thing when I'm elected, I'm going to move the Israeli - the embassy, the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem which would effectively recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Then he backed off of that. Then he advised Israel against building more settlements. What's happening to the president?

AL-OMARI: I think what's happening is when you sit in that office, you realize that there are complexities, there are national interest concerns that you simply don't see from the outside. And I think his policy, whether to this conflict or to the Middle East in general, has evolved as he saw the complexities and what is at stake for the United States in the region.

INSKEEP: You think he saw the complexities. You think he actually has learned and changed here?

AL-OMARI: What we see right now is indications that we have a more realistic, more grounded policy, at least that's the indications. Whether this will be turned into concrete policies, it's too early to tell. It's only been three months. But certainly the trajectory is very different from what we see - what we saw from Trump as a candidate versus Trump the president.

INSKEEP: What's the role of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner?

AL-OMARI: That's also quite vague at the moment. He's in charge of the file, but he has remained very silent about it. The day-to-day management is done by the president's peace envoy, Mr. Jason Greenblatt. Kushner remains as the overall figure. But we have not seen any direct engagement from him, so it remains a bit murky.

INSKEEP: Assuming that this does end up as a two-state solution, if it were to, let me just ask one bottom-line question. There are people who doubt whether Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu is serious about endorsing a two-state solution even though he's formally endorsed it. Of course, the opposite question is posed to President Abbas.

When I've moved around the West Bank, I see maps of Palestine - Palestine including all of Israel. Are Palestinians really ready to recognize Israel as a country, and as Israelis would want, as a Jewish state?

AL-OMARI: I think if the right conditions are there, if the right package that includes resolution of all of the issues is there, Palestinians would be ready. Will they fall in love with Israel? Most likely not. Will we have a peace that is stable? I think so. Look at the peace that Israel had with Egypt and Jordan.

Egyptians and Jordanians are no big fans of Israel, yet the peace itself stuck. If the two sides get their interests met - their interests for the Palestinians is about independence and dignity - they would be - you would have a stable peace deal. For the Israelis, it's about security and recognition. You get these components, you get a peace. Peace is not about love. It's about accommodation.

INSKEEP: A cold peace, as people have said.

AL-OMARI: A cold peace is better than a warm conflict.

INSKEEP: OK. Ghaith al-Omari, thank you very much for coming by, really appreciate it.

AL-OMARI: Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: He is currently with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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