Tight security for Trump's visit to Israel, Palestine

by Antonio Miles May 23, 2017, 0:35

As President Donald Trump became the first sitting USA president to visit the hallowed Western Wall on Monday, it remained unclear whether his administration was changing longstanding US policy by declaring the wall's location to be Israel, versus Jerusalem.

In contrast to his predecessor, who in his first trip to the Middle East conspicuously skipped over Israel, President Trump is coming to see us on his first foreign sojourn.

Mr Trump's eight-day trip will also take in Brussels, the Vatican, and Sicily.

"What's happened with Iran has brought numerous parts of the Middle East toward Israel", Trump said in public remarks at a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. "The Temple Mount and the Western Wall will remain under Israeli sovereignty".

Meeting Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Trump said Iran felt "emboldened" by the worldwide nuclear deal, promoted by Obama, that it signed in 2015 under which it agreed to limit its atomic programme in return for sanctions relief. "It's part of the West Bank" - a remark that an Israeli official said was "received with shock".

Trump, who is Protestant, is the first USA president to have Jewish members of his immediate family. Sitting at the entrance to his antique silver shop on Sunday, Mohammed Awad complained that the site does not belong to Jews and that the president made a mistake by not visiting the Al Aqsa Mosque. For this reason, USA officials refuse to say that the wall is part of Israel.

The US has left the status of Jerusalem as a whole to a final status peace settlement.

"And it's certainly true that if the USA were to move the embassy, it would be much more hard for the U.S. to start negotiations and to get Arab states to support it as they are trying to now and to bring the Palestinians to the table".

Israel had asked if Netanyahu could join the visit to the wall, but was told no, in keeping with US policy that the status of the Old City of Jerusalem is a subject for peace negotiations.

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Trump has vowed to do whatever is necessary to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but has given little sign of how he could revive long-stalled negotiations.

Over half-a-million Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, land the Palestinians claim for a future state.

"Like President Bush and Obama, he's not doing anything", Awad said.

On Monday, Trump's new ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, landed in Tel Aviv and drove straight to the Western Wall to say a blessing in both English and Hebrew.

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". He prayed at the wall and placed a note inside the crevices, becoming the first serving United States president to visit Judaism's holiest site.

A White House official blamed Trump's fatigue for the switch.

McMaster twice refused to say whether the wall was part of Israel.

Trump has also opted against an immediate move of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a longtime demand of Israel.

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