The US president was having “doubts about Netanyahu and wondering aloud if the Israeli prime minister might be the real problem,” according to Woodward. “Trump had even earlier said to Netanyahu on a Washington visit that he believed he was the obstacle to peace, not Abbas.”
Then, when Trump came to Israel in May 2017, Netanyahu presented him with a video of Abbas in which “it sounded like Abbas was ordering the murder of children.”
Netanyahu wondered: “And that’s the guy you want to help?”
Trump was disturbed by the video and called in then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson to watch the clip.
“Watch this! This is unbelievable! You’ve got to see this,” he said.
Tillerson watched the clip, but was highly skeptical. He later said he believed it had been crudely cut together using various bits of speech by Abbas.
After Netanyahu left the room, Tillerson told Trump: “Mr. President, you realize that the whole thing was fabricated?”
But Trump was unconvinced. “Well it’s not fabricated,” he said. “They got the guy on tape saying it.”
There are no known videos of Abbas calling for the murder of children.
When Trump traveled to Bethlehem the next day, according to Woodward, he lashed out at the Palestinian leader, calling him a “liar” and “murderer.” Elements of that exchange were reported at the time.