Below is color and observations from the joint appearance of President Trump and President Abbas at the Palestinian Authority Presidential Palace in Bethlehem. (Memoli is soon sending a report on Abbas's statement. We had some technical difficulties with the translation, so please standby for that report.)
As the pool preset in the conference room ahead of President Trump and President Abbas' joint statements, there was some haggling between White House staff and Palestinian Authority officials over where the U.S. journalists could be positioned. It was negotiated such that White House pool correspondents could sit in the front row, with still photographers seated on the floor of the aisle, behind a red velvet stanchion that separated the press from the delegation staffs.
Roughly 10 minutes before Trump and Abbas entered the room, Johnny McEntee and Stephen Miller came in and McEntee placed a paper copy of what may have been Trump's prepared remarks at the lectern. McEntee and Miller mingled with Palestinian Authority officials on the sidelines before the statements began.
The two presidents spoke at twin lecterns on an elevated platform in front of a black curtain. The lecterns were made of a dark brown wood at the base and black top (similar in shape to presidential lecterns at the White House), with the Palestinian Authority seal on the front. Trump had two American flags and one Palestinian Authority flag alternating behind him, while Abbas has two Palestinian Authority flags and one American flag alternating behind him.
Trump and Abbas' meeting was scheduled to last 30 minutes and began roughly on time. But their discussion may have gone longer because their joint statements began about an hour after their meeting began.
Ahead of the statements, H.R. McMaster walked into the room, looked at the papers on Trump's lectern briefly, and then exited the room. He returned moments later to take a seat in the front row, along with Secretary Tillerson, Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn. Dina Powell, walking in wearing sunglasses before removing them, took a seat in the second row, along with three staffers whom your pooler did not recognize. Stephen Miller, Avi Berkowitz and two other unrecognized staffers sat in the third row. Your pool also spotted Keith Schiller and George Gigicos standing at the side of the room.
A Palestinian Authority official had a brief conversation with Tillerson while the two staffs waited for the presidents to enter. The presidents walked in about 11:05 a.m.
As Abbas spoke, Trump listened to a translation through an earpiece and looked stone faced, gripping his lectern with both hands and staring straight ahead. He did not emote.
When their statements were concluded, both presidents exited the room and did not take questions.