U.S. President Donald Trump travelled by motorcade the 5 kilometers from his Jerusalem hotel to Bethlehem this morning and was embraced by 82-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Trump reviewed the Palestinian security force guard of honor, trained by the United States, and shook hands with religious and political leaders.
Before visiting the Jewish state Trump had visited Saudi Arabia, home to the world’s most important Muslim sites, and called upon Islamic leaders to fight terrorism. In his Bethlehem speech he lauded Abbas, who had also been present at that Saudi meeting, for agreeing to do all he can to fight violence and being “committed to taking firm but necessary steps to fight terrorism and confront its hateful ideology.”
However, Trump also implicitly condemned the PA’s direct and overt support of terrorism in the form of regular payments made to the murderers of Jews and to their families.
“Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded,” he said.
Prior to his meeting with Abbas, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, had called on Trump to demand an “immediate” end to such payments.
“It is perfectly fine for textbooks to celebrate one’s own cultural heritage and accomplishments, but it is simply unacceptable for those same textbooks to teach false narratives, promote anti-Semitism, and deny Israel’s right to exist,” he said.
Following Trump’s meeting with Abbas, he visited Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, calling the Holocaust, “a savage crime against God and his children.”
Ironically Abbas is a holocaust denier and holds a documented interest in Nazi ideas. His doctoral dissertation, written in Moscow in 1982, was entitled “The Other Face: The Secret Connections Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement.” He also wrote a book two years later based on that dissertation, which has never been translated from its original Arabic.
Both Trump and Abbas began their Bethlehem speeches by condemning Monday night’s terrorist attack in Manchester, England, which left at least 22 dead, mostly children.
“I am committed to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Trump asserted. “And I intend to do everything I can to help them achieve that goal.”
Abbas, in his speech, noted that the fundamental obstacle to peace from the Palestinian perspective is the “occupation and settlements and the failure of Israel to recognize the state of Palestine as we recognize it.”
Trump painted a bright picture of hope for the region.
“I am truly hopeful that America can help Israel and the Palestinians forge peace and bring new hope to the region and its people,” he said. “I also firmly believe that if Israel and the Palestinians can make peace, it can begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East and that will be an amazing accomplishment.”
Trump’s visit to Israel has been widely acclaimed for its positive, non-interventionist and refreshingly supportive nature.