For Mahmoud Abbas, “the conflict is not between religions” but about the “occupation”

Today, Abbas and US President Donald Trump met. The president of the Palestinian Authority calls for the end to the occupation and settlements. For Trump, the problem is terrorism. In the West Bank strikes are held in support of prisoners on hunger strike for more than a month. Leadership, not weapons, is needed, according to Bernard Sabella. Understanding the causes of terrorism is needed to defeat terrorism.


Bethlehem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – This morning, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held a press conference in Bethlehem with his US counterpart Donald Trump.

The president of the Palestinian National Authority said that “the conflict is not between religions’, instead, “Our real problem is with the occupation and the settlements and Israel's failure to recognize the state of Palestine.”

The Palestinian leader went on to mention “our Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for more than a month”.

For his part, Trump insisted on the importance of defeating the terrorists whom he called "evil losers" reiterating his commitment “to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians". To achieve this, "I intend to do everything I can to help them achieve that goal.”

The statements came at the end of a private meeting between the two leaders. Yesterday, Trump had met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the press conference with Netanyahu, the central topic was Iran. As he said during his visit to Saudi Arabia, Trump noted that the Iranian regime “is threatening the region and causing so much violence and suffering."

His visit with the Palestinian leader comes at a time of rising tensions over the ongoing hunger strike by at least 1,300 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Yesterday, Palestinians called for a general strike at 11 am. This is the first time this kind of action has been taken since the first intifada. Stores were closed in Jerusalem’s Old Town. People joined the hunger strike for 12 hours, from 10 am to 10 pm.

Scores of protesters also took to the streets of the West Bank and Gaza, especially near Bethlehem’s basilica of the Nativity. At least 20 were injured in clashes with the Israeli army in Ramallah and Hebron districts.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Bernard Sabella, a Catholic member of Fatah and executive secretary of the Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees in the Middle East Council of Churches, said that today's meeting is "proof that we are willing to sit and talk to get the 'Agreement of the century' if our Israeli counterparts will do the same."

"Yesterday I stayed home. Jerusalem was all closed,” he said. “This strike was a message to Trump, a way to support the prisoners, who ask nothing impossible, only that their human dignity is respected."

"We condemn terrorism,” Sabella said reacting to Trump's remarks. “What happened last night in Manchester is horrible; it is a terrible thing for everyone, for the people killed, for the families involved”.

Still, “We have to confront terrorism, not just by selling weapons, but also by dealing with the causes; understanding what makes young people become terrorists and prevent it from happening; ensuring that we stop seeing each other as enemies and begin to see each other as people."

"What we need now is not a weapon agreement (Trump recently signed a billion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia) but political leadership; creating an atmosphere of trust, not [build] tools of war," he said.

The hunger strike, which began on 17 April, is now in its 37th day. The health conditions of the strikers are rapidly deteriorating. Hebrew-language media report that about 70 prisoners have been moved to Israeli civilian hospitals because of their worsened conditions.

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