Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed US President Donald Trump at the Palestinian presidential palace in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem on Tuesday morning.
Palestinian presidential guard spokesman Ghassan Nimr told local media outlets on Tuesday that some 2,000 members of Palestinian security forces were deployed across Bethlehem for the occasion.
Trump’s convoy entered Bethlehem shortly before 10 a.m., arriving from the 300 Checkpoint and driving past Israel’s illegal separation wall.
Trump’s convoy passes by Israel’s separation wall in Bethlehem and a banner that reads: “The city of peace welcomes the man of peace.”
The American head of state was greeted by Abbas, as well as Palestinian religious dignitaries and military officials at the presidential palace before retreating for a closed-door meeting.
Abbas and Trump held a brief joint press conference following the meeting, before Trump left Bethlehem ahead of a planned visit to the Holocaust memorial and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
During the press conference, the American president said that “peace is a choice we must make each day, and the US is here to make that dream possible for young Jewish, Muslim and Christian children,” presumably referring to children in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
“I truly believe if Israel and the Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process for peace in the Middle East,” Trump added. “Abbas assures me he is ready to work toward that goal in good faith, and (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu has promised the same. I look forward to working with these leaders toward a lasting peace.”
Meanwhile, Abbas pledged to cooperate with Trump to reach a historic peace deal with Israelis, and to work in partnership with the United States against terrorism.
“We hope history will testify to the fact that President Donald Trump was the one who achieved peace,” Abbas said, adding that a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital remained the Palestinian Authority’s preference to obtain a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Our problem is with the occupation and settlements and the failure of Israel to recognize the state of Palestine in the same way we recognize (Israel),” Abbas said. “The problem is not between us and Judaism, it is between us and occupation.”
He also urged Israel to comply with “just and human demands” of hundreds of Palestinian hunger strikers currently forgoing food for the 37th day in Israeli prisons.
The Palestinian leader added that “the key to peace” in the Middle East was the independence and freedom of the Palestinian people.
Trump’s two-day visit — during which he has visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Western Wall in occupied East Jerusalem — comes amid fierce opposition among Palestinians, who denounce the far-right leader’s strong support of Israel and its policies targeting Palestinians, as well as his notorious anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Palestinians in both the occupied West Bank and inside Israel observed a general strike Monday, called for in part to express support for 1,300 Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli prisons, and also to voice opposition to the resumption of peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel under US sponsorship.
Palestinians have also called for a “Day of Rage” on Tuesday to coincide with Trump’s arrival in Bethlehem, when confrontations between locals and Israeli forces are expected to take place across the occupied West Bank.