Trump pushes for Mideast peace, but avoids thorny details

Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after making a joint statement in Jerusalem, Monday, May 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

JERUSALEM (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday pushed for elusive peace between Israel and the Palestinians, calling on both sides to put aside the “pain and disagreements of the past.”

Trump met with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his quick stop in the region. Speaking at the Israel Museum, he declared both sides ready to move forward, though there were no tangible signs of the dormant peace process being revived.

“Palestinians are ready to reach for peace,” Trump said. Turning to the prime minister, who joined him for the speech, Trump said, “Benjamin Netanyahu wants peace.”

The president notably avoided all of the thorny issues that have stymied peace efforts for decades. He did not way in Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem or even whether the U.S. would continue to insist on a two-state solution giving the Palestinians sovereign territory.

Still, Trump was enthusiastically received by Netanyahu, who leapt to his feet when the president declared that his administration “will always stand with Israel.” Netanyahu had a frosty relationship with former U.S. President Barack Obama, but has lavished praise on Trump throughout his visit.

Yet some Israeli officials are less certain of Trump. He’s taken a tougher than expected line on settlements, saying he doesn’t believe they help the peace process, though he’s stopped short of calling for a full construction freeze. He’s also backed away from his campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, bending to the same security risks as other presidents who have made that promise.

At the same time, Abbas and the Palestinians have been pleasantly surprised by their dealings with Trump. On Tuesday morning, Trump met with Abbas in Bethlehem, traveling across the barrier surrounding the biblical city, which serves as a visual reminder of the complexities of the conflict in the region.

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