The arrival of US President Donald Trump in Israel Monday after a direct flight from Riyadh was briefly delayed, as a full-ceremonial welcome awaited him at Ben-Gurion airport. On hand were President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the full-line up of cabinet ministers. Trump’s avowed resolve to crack the 100-year old Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the “ultimate deal” is treated with skepticism – affectionately by Israelis, and gloomily by the Palestinians.
Some resent his naming Hamas as a terrorist organization in his epic speech of outreach to more than 50 Muslim leaders in Riyadh Sunday and declaration of war on Islamic extremist terror. The US President also commented: “If the world’s three major faiths can join in cooperation, then world peace and peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is possible.”
After flying by US Marine One helicopter to Jerusalem, Trump is due to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Western Wall in the Old City. He will be the first US president to visit this holy Jewish shrine. Later, he and the first lady join the prime minister and his wife for dinner. Tuesday he gets together with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.
Although Israel was not directly addressed in the Trump speech in Riyadh, his hard-hitting comments on Iran were welcomed in Jerusalem. A White house official told reporters later: “An emboldened Iran has united the Arab world in a very unique way, and they are working together extremely cooperatively — and also, frankly, cooperating incredibly well with Israel.”
Arriving with Air Force One were a dozen air transports with his retinue and a fleet of presidential vehicles. More than 11,000 Israeli police officers are imposing the tightest possible security on the 28-hour presidential visit up until Tuesday afternoon.