Trump Israel trip 1st presidential flight from Saudi Arabia
- Author: Leroy Wright May 23, 2017,
May 23, 2017, 18:03
Trump became the first sitting United States president to visit the Western Wall in the disputed city, placing his hand on one of the most sacred sites in Judaism in a highly symbolic move.
But as Mr Trump arrived in Jerusalem after meetings in Saudi Arabia, the president indicated that he and those Arab states see an agreement with the Palestinians as integral to that new regional alignment.
But he is also contending with a raft of problems back home, including a special counsel investigating whether his associates colluded with Russian Federation. Naftali Bennett, a pro-settler Cabinet minister, used the opportunity of meeting Trump in an airport receiving line to press him to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
He later travelled by helicopter to Jerusalem and, in remarks at Israeli President Reuven Rivlin's residence, launched another salvo against Iran.
Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley declared the site part of Israel, while U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday dodged the question.
"It must cease immediately", he said, referring to Iran's alleged involvement in arming and training militias.
Trump said of those responsible for the bombing: "I won't call them monsters".
The latest controversy stemmed from a dust-up last week between American and Israeli officials planning for Trump's visit.
President Trump wants to assure you that he's absolutely not guilty. He toured the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which by Christian tradition is where Jesus was crucified and the location of his tomb.
The site is known to Jews as Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism, and to Muslims as The Noble Sanctuary, where al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, and the gold-topped Dome of the Rock, now stand.
And while Trump has diverged in some ways from past precedent in his approach to the conflict, he is also shirking some of his hardline pro-Israeli rhetoric from the campaign trail in favor of more traditional U.S. policy.
On Monday, Israeli forces shot and injured at least 11 Palestinian protesters who staged a general strike in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the besieged Gaza Strip in support of those prisoners on hunger strikes. After the 1948 war, the hotel overlooked a grim no-man's land dividing Israeli and Jordanian-controlled territory; now its terraces and manicured gardens offer views the walls of the Old City, as well as parts of traditionally Arab east Jerusalem, increasingly populated by Jewish settlers. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
Trump labelled Bethlehem, "a precious city" and said he intended "to do everything he could" to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. "But I have a feeling we will get there eventually".
Trump shocked longtime observers of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process earlier this year when he declined to endorse a two-state solution to the conflict, breaking with stated U.S. policy under his past two predecessors, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. "Israel's hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors, including the Palestinians", he said.
At the same time, he urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.
Trump also advocated during his campaign breaking with decades of precedent and moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, deeply alarming Palestinians.
Washington welcomed the move, but the Palestinians said they had heard such promises before.
Trump heads to the Vatican after his two-day visit here, and the White House argues that his visit to holy sites of three of the world's major religions demonstrates his commitment to religious tolerance and peace.