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Trump Hosts Palestinian Authority President Abbas At The White House

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Earlier today, President Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met at the White House. Here's a bit of what Trump had to say after that meeting.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We want to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We will get it done. We will be working so hard to get it done. It's been a long time.

SIEGEL: Well, joining us to talk about Palestinian reaction to today's White House meeting is Daoud Kuttab. He's a Palestinian journalist based in the Jordanian capital Amman. Welcome back to the program.

DAOUD KUTTAB: Thank you, Robert. Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: Donald Trump spoke today of trying to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian peace. He's hardly the first president to do so. Do Palestinians see any possible prospect of success this time?

KUTTAB: Well, I think the bar has been so low and expectations so low that anything better than what we have might be positive or seen as positive. Not much has happened in the last years with Obama, although there was so much high expectations. So Palestinians, they don't expect much out of this.

SIEGEL: Of course, skeptical Israelis say that whenever a new territorial partition plan has been put on the table the Palestinian leadership has rejected it. Do Palestinians at this moment especially need a peace deal with Israel more than they might have in the past?

KUTTAB: I think the Palestinians need a way to stop the hemorrhage. The hemorrhage is the loss of land to settlements. And any deal or even a process that can bring with it a freeze or slowdown or reversal of the settlement process I think would be welcomed because it would stop the loss of land. And eventually there will - hopefully there will be a deal. But the settlements is a big issue here.

SIEGEL: But you're saying there would be virtue in a renewed process itself even if a deal might be far off or impossible to achieve.

KUTTAB: If it has along with it a freeze of settlement because without a deal the settlements are continuing. So having a process that is a settlement freeze is better than having no process with the settlements continuing to be built and taken apart and making the two-state solution almost impossible.

SIEGEL: Daoud, I want to ask you about what Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, did this week. They issued a revised charter that speaks of achieving an independent Palestine on the pre-'67 borders. That means not eliminating Israel in theory. The Hamas leader did not say that the new document replaces the old Hamas charter, which opposes any territorial concession and blames Jews for everything from the French Revolution to World War II. Is the new document a meaningful statement of any new positions by Hamas or just a tactical favor to Mahmoud Abbas?

KUTTAB: No. Well, it is a favor to Abbas, but I think it's been coming for some time. And they're having internal elections, so I think what you saw is basically the leaked or the stated - they still have to vote on it and it most likely will be passed, but what you've seen and what you've heard of is the first look in a public way of the amended charter.

SIEGEL: If in fact a deal with Israel would include things that would be unpopular with a great many Palestinians - very limited right of return, let's say, territorial swaps that would leave big settlement blocks in place - is Abbas powerful enough, politically strong enough to agree to something that might be unpopular?

KUTTAB: I think he is the - for many who believe in a two-state solution the last hope. He's the most moderate Palestinian leader we've had. And I think if he can deliver something that is better than the mess we're in now - the occupation of 50 years, the settlements that they're not stopping - I think it will be seen as positive. But if there is a huge concession, no, obviously that will not work. But if it's a reasonable concession where equal land of quality inside is swapped and there's some kind of a ceremonial or some kind of a return of some people and a solution to Jerusalem, then I think yes, he can sell that.

SIEGEL: Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, who joined us via Skype from Amman. Thanks for talking with us once again.

KUTTAB: Thank you, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.