Trump's Support of Saudi Arabia Predicted to 'Backfire' on US
- Author: Zachary Reyes May 24, 2017,
May 24, 2017, 16:11
During his brief stay the USA leader met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, visited Christian and Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem, paid respects at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and made an optimistic - yet somewhat vague - Mideast peace speech at the Israel Museum.
And while the tour overseas hasn't slowed the stream of headlines about investigations into alleged Russian influence in Trump's election victory, or his decision to divulge sensitive intelligence information leaders of that country, some veteran political reporters say the president's trip has given him a chance to outline how his administration plans to engage with the larger world. His remarks drew heavy criticism from the media and some former state department officials, who said the Trump administration is leaving American values on the ground. The White House-driven effort is a sharp shift from the practice of previous USA administrations that typically gave secretaries of state those responsibilities. Trump has also retreated from a campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, bending to the same diplomatic and security concerns as other presidents who have made similar promises.
Meanwhile, Palestinian activists are calling for a "Day of Rage" when Trump visits the West Bank on Tuesday.
Israel has expressed concerns about U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia eroding its own defensive edge in the region, but the deal does not include the sale of F-35 stealth fighters, which the Jewish state now owns. The official spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement and did not provide further details.
That means, like other recent USA presidents, Trump is linking his presidency to the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process".
A few hours earlier, standing in Bethlehem alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, he said, "King Salman of Saudi Arabia could not have been kinder, and I will tell you, he's a very wise, wise man".
David Friedman, the new US ambassador to Israel, told the newspaper Israel Hayom that Trump's goal at the start is simply "to begin a discussion that would hopefully lead to peace".
One troubled period was the Saudi leadership of the 1973 oil boycott against the U.S.in retaliation for American support for Israel in the October War.
The area is home to sensitive religious sites, including the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray. He reiterated the Palestinians' demands, including establishing a capital in East Jerusalem, territory Israel claims as well, insisting that "our problem is not with the Jewish religion, it's with the occupation and settlements, and with Israel not recognizing the state of Palestine".
The last round of peace talks, led by then-President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, fell apart in 2014. The President of the United States played the "Trump" card. The White House said it was Trump's idea to use the term "evil losers". His speech was denounced by many Republicans and criticized by a number of America's Middle East allies as being a sort of apology.
Suzanne Maloney, a State Department policy planning official under President George W. Bush, said there was always going to be "a correction" after Obama toward traditional USA allies and away from Iran, even if Hillary Clinton had won. "And drive them out of this Earth", President Trump appealed. Hard-liners who dominate Netanyahu's government grew particularly concerned when White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster voiced support last week for Palestinian "self-determination".
Trump's caution showed. He did not weigh in on Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem or even whether the US would continue to insist on a two-state solution giving the Palestinians sovereign territory.