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World

After Meeting Israeli Officials, Trump Talks With Palestinians

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. So we heard President Trump express his condolences about the Manchester attack from his trip in the Middle East. Let's turn our attention now to that trip. President Trump is finishing up his visit to Israel this morning. He spoke at Israel's Holocaust Memorial and then gave a speech at the Israel Museum.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The Palestinians are ready to reach for peace. I know you've heard it before. I am telling you. That's what I do. They are ready to reach for peace.

GREENE: Let's bring in NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. He's been covering this visit. Hey, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hi.

GREENE: So the president saying there the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace. What was the thrust of this speech?

ESTRIN: Well, one central theme was things are going to be different under Donald Trump. He said under his administration, the U.S. alliance with Israel will be strong. He said, under my administration, you'll see the difference, a big, big beautiful difference. But about the Palestinians - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke, and he said, you know, if the attack in Manchester, England, had been carried out by a Palestinian, the Palestinian Authority government would have rewarded the attacker with money. He demanded the Palestinian government stop that practice of what Palestinians see as a kind of welfare support to families whose relatives have acted on behalf of the Palestinian cause. And you heard Trump speaking very differently, very much more upbeat, saying I met Abbas today, and I'm telling you the Palestinians are ready to reach for peace.

GREENE: Wow, two very different messages there. So President Trump, he received a standing ovation at one point when he said that the U.S. is firmly committed to keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and halting their support of terrorists. What was the significance of that?

ESTRIN: Right. Well, I mean, it's something that President Obama also promised, that Iran won't develop a nuclear weapon. But Israel did not like the nuclear deal that Obama brokered with Iran, and Israel's much happier with Trump's stance on Iran.

GREENE: OK. So you mentioned that President Trump met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and brought that up when he was suggesting that the Palestinians are ready for peace. They met in the crowded West Bank city of Bethlehem about a half hour from Jerusalem, and then Trump and Abbas spoke briefly. What did we hear from them?

ESTRIN: Yeah. Both presidents focused on how to reach Mideast peace. Abbas said the Palestinians want an independent Palestine next to Israel. The two-state solution - right? - which is a solution that the U.S. has not - or that Trump has not yet explicitly endorsed, though the U.S. has long supported it. Abbas said the Palestinians have no problem with Judaism. Their problem is the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. And Trump passed one major symbol of the Israeli occupation when his motorcade sped through a gap in the Israeli separation barrier that separates Israel from the West Bank. It's around Bethlehem. It's a tall, concrete wall covered in graffiti. It stands right up along the city. Palestinians in Bethlehem say they feel like they're living a ghetto with it. And then when Trump spoke, he said something very interesting. Take a listen.

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TRUMP: I also firmly believe that if Israel and the Palestinians can make peace, it will begin a process of peace all throughout the Middle East, and that would be an amazing accomplishment.

GREENE: What do you make of that?

ESTRIN: Well, you know, it's Israeli-Palestinian peace leading to regional peace, and that is the exact opposite of what Netanyahu has been trying to push. He's looking for a kind of in - or outside-in approach. First, peace between Israel and Sunni Arab states, who have a common enemy in Iran, and then that regional peace leading to Israeli-Palestinian peace. So Trump is, in those remarks, kind of putting Israeli-Palestinian peace back at the center of the agenda.

GREENE: Daniel, Donald Trump set very high expectations, it seemed, for this trip, and he's speaking in a lot of lofty language. Some critics have said, where are the specifics? And aren't specifics important for someone like Abbas when he goes back to his people after the president leaves?

ESTRIN: Definitely. I mean, right now today, the Palestinians - many Palestinians protested in the West Bank. It's not Trump and hope for peace that is energizing them. It's demonstrations for Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails. And, you know, for Abbas, he needs to come back to his people and say, I - it's not just words. Your lives are going to improve.

GREENE: All right. That's NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Daniel, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.