Monday, 20 August, 2018

Trump Hopeful on Peace in Israel

Francis Olson | 23 May, 2017, 08:29

On Monday, President Donald Trump became the first sitting American president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a sacred prayer site for Jews, during his five-day trip to the Middle East and Europe.

He reminded Trump that Israel this week marks the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, adding: "It makes us very happy to know that Israel's most important ally recognizes the significance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people all around the world".

Trump's Israeli visit comes on the heels of reports that he revealed classified intelligence provided by Israel to Russian officials in a meeting at the White House. But obstacles have emerged that may complicate the relationship between the White House and the Knesset.

On Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed to stick to that stance, refusing to say whether the Wall is either in Israel or the West Bank.

But Trump's visit to the wall comes after U.S. officials who met with Israeli officials to arrange Trump's visit sparked off a controversy by contending that the Western Wall was part of the West Bank - which is not the US' policy.

No breakthroughs are expected during Mr Trump's 28-hour visit but the U.S. hopes it will lay the groundwork for renewed talks supported by the Arab world.

The president has also sent mixed signals on the issue of Jerusalem, pledging to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv, angering Palestinians and delighting Israelis.

White House aides have also tried to play down expectations for significant progress on the peace process during Trump's stop, casting the visit as symbolic.

He has called an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement "the ultimate deal" but has been vague about what form it should take, saying he prefers to leave it to both sides to decide between them in direct talks.

Emmanuel Macron's win welcomed by European leaders
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At the same time, he says Israel welcomes Trump's push for peace, and its hand is extended in peace "to all neighbors, including the Palestinians".

On the flight from Saudi Arabia to Israel, during a Q & A session with reporters, Tillerson commented: "On to the second stop, Tel Aviv, home of Judaism".

On Tuesday, Trump will meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem in the West Bank, visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and give a speech at the Israel Museum.

The United States does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a position shared by almost every other country in the worldwide community. "But we can only get there working together".

Trump's seeming openness to at least some of Abbas's concerns has given Palestinians more reason for hope than many may have expected, but still reason to remain wary, some analysts say.

Trump's visit to Israel began with a lighthearted moment.

"We have travelled here to see the church", he said on Monday morning.

After Israel and the Palestinian territories, Trump will head to the Vatican along with Brussels and Italy for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and G7 meetings.

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