Expectations have been set low for meetings between US presidents and Palestinian leaders for many years now, but never as low as the hopes for Donald Trump’s first meeting with Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday, Middle East observers argue.
The Palestinian president will arrive at the White House facing a crisis of legitimacy among Palestinians, and new challenges to his leadership. He will meet the most vociferously pro-Israeli president in recent decades who has surrounded himself with Middle East advisers – foremost his son-in-law, Jared Kushner – with deep links to the Israeli settler movement.
Trump has claimed Kushner will be able to “broker a Middle East peace deal” where a succession of American statesmen have failed. But Dennis Ross, a US negotiator on the Middle East in three previous US administrations said there has seldom if ever been less hope of a grand bargain.
“There is no big deal – whether you call it the ultimate deal or the big deal,” Ross, now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “I have been working on this issue for 30 years and I can safely say we are at a low ebb between Israelis and Palestinians, not in terms of violence … but a low ebb in terms of complete disbelief on both sides.”
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