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Many Palestinians seemed less than impressed by President Trump’s brief foray into the West Bank on Tuesday for talks in the town of Bethlehem with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Though Trump stood before a backdrop of Palestinian flags and listened to the playing of the Palestinian national anthem, the U.S. president’s remarks did not include any reference to a “two-state solution,” with Israel and a Palestinian state existing side by side.
“There’s not much detail there, as usual. It’s still in the realm of generalizations rather than a specific strategy or approach,’’ said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Speaking by phone from Ramallah, the Palestinians' de facto administration capital, Ashrawi said of Trump: “He’s still on a learning curve, and peacemaking is not a business deal.”
In Bethlehem, some Palestinians joked that the visit's main achievement was that the municipality had cleaned the streets beforehand, said Akram Al Ayassa, an official with a Palestinian government commission.
Many Palestinians were already irked that Trump spent only about an hour with their leader over the course of his two-day trip to Israel and the West Bank. Locals in Bethlehem had also hoped Trump would visit the town's most famous attraction, the Church of the Nativity, revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus.
The Arabic-language hashtag #45minutes was trending in social-media posts on the visit, said Bethlehem-based blogger and journalist Fadi Abu Sada, who called the Trump-Abbas meeting “public relations and nothing more.”
He said Trump’s White House meeting with Abbas earlier this month had briefly raised Palestinian expectations but wondered how long that initial optimism would last.
“For us, nothing has changed yet,” Abu Sada said. “Things on the ground are still the same.”