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Analyzing The Spoken And Unspoken At Today’s Trump-Abbas Press Conference

Today, Mahmoud Abbas met US President Donald Trump at the White House. And if you believe the Times of Israel’s founding editor David Horovitz, you will think it all went down so well for Abbas, that Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu will have some very sleepless nights.

Trump’s welcome for Abbas is so warm he might have been hosting an Israeli leader

Donald Trump’s joint appearance Wednesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must have made for deeply troubling viewing in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

The US president, who was expected to be far tougher on the Palestinians than his predecessor Barack Obama, could hardly have been more warm, gracious and welcoming.

The US president who has not given a carte blanche for settlement building, and who has not — or at least not yet — moved the embassy to Jerusalem, again disappointed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; he could not have given Abbas an easier time.

Trump, in complete contrast, made clear throughout his brief remarks that he regards Abbas as a central, viable part of the solution.

He hailed Abbas for signing the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn 24 years ago, recalling that his guest was a signatory to that first agreement and hoping that the PA president would, in due course, be able to sign a final, permanent accord.

Clearly placing Abbas on the good side of the battle against terrorism, he noted that Abbas has spoken out against terror, and he enthused about what he called the “unbelievable,” “beautiful” relationship that Abbas’s security forces have with their Israeli counterparts.

He certainly warned that there could be “no lasting peace” unless the Palestinian leadership spoke in a unified voice against violence and hatred. But that was the mildest of upbraids; there was no direct accusation that Abbas has been doing anything wrong.

Here is the full press conference. Needless to say, I think Horovitz has completely misread the situation.

I have a number of observations on what we just saw:

  • At the very beginning of the speech, Trump refers to Abbas as having last visited 24 years ago, as he stood with “a courageous peacemaker.” Trump then makes clear he is referring to Yitzhak Rabin, in what seems to be a huge diss of Yasser Arafat!
  • I am not a body language expert, but Abbas touches his face right as Trump talks about bringing safety, stability and prosperity to BOTH peoples
  • Trump says peace also means defeating ISIS and “other terrorist groups.” He does not mention any other such groups by name, but does speak of partnering with the Palestinian security forces to defeat them, clearly referring to palestinian terrorist groups. I assume Trump knows full well from his talks with Binyamin Netanyahu that the palestinian security forces also count terrorists among their number, so perhaps there is a veiled threat here for Abbas to clean things up in this regard.
  • Trump comes out strongly against incitement to violence by the palestinian leaders. That includes Abbas.
  • When Abbas speaks about fighting terrorism, he only mentions fighting ISIS!
  • Abbas speaks about Israel ending its 50-year “occupation,” even though in Arabic he speaks about the occupation as being from 1948 (and the logo of his own Fatah party shows the entire state of Israel, not just the so-called “occupied territories”). Another example of his doublespeak.
  • Trump’s body language is telling. When Abbas is speaking, he hardly looks at him. Even when he turns to him, his eyes are darting around. But when he met Netanyahu earlier this year, Trump looked directly at him. Don’t believe me? Compare and contrast:

He clearly trusts Netanyahu over Abbas.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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