On Monday, President Trump arrived in Israel on what has been called a historic visit. Having concluded high level meetings and delivering an address on the international scourge of Islamist terrorism while visiting Saudi Arabia on his very first international sojourn, Trump conveyed “warmest greetings from your friend and ally, all of the people in the United States” at the welcoming ceremony at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport.
Air Force One arrived at approximately 12:35 pm Israel time and the relatively short plane flight made history as well as it marked the first direct flight from Riyadh to Tel Aviv. “On my first trip overseas as president, I have come to this sacred and ancient land to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and the State of Israel,” Trump stated at a welcoming ceremony hosted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.
“I am deeply grateful for your invitation and am very, very honored to be with you,” Trump said. “We love Israel, we respect Israel and I send your people the warmest greetings from your friend and ally, all of the people in the United States of America.”
“It is wonderful to be here in Israel,” he continued. “In this land so rich in history, Israel has built one of the world’s great civilizations, a strong, resilient, determined and prosperous nation.”
“It is also a nation forged in the commitment that we will never allow the horrors and atrocities of the last century to be repeated,” he added, on obvious reference to the Holocaust.
Referring to his visit to Saudi Arabia over the weekend, Trump said he has “found new reasons for hope” and “reached historic agreements to pursue greater and greater cooperation in the fight against terrorism and its evil ideology.”
Trump’s next stops on his first trip abroad as US president are the Vatican and a NATO summit in Belgium.
“We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and to its people, defeating terrorism and creating a future of harmony, prosperity and peace,” he stressed. “We must work together to build a future in which the nations of the region are at peace, and all of our children can grow, and grow up strong, and grow up free from terrorism and violence. But we can only get there working together. There is no other way.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told Trump that Israel “will do everything in its power to assist you” in defeating terrorism in the region. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin conveyed Israel’s full intention to join President Donald Trump in his efforts to root out terrorism in the Middle East, during a joint press conference at his Jerusalem residence on Monday.
“You marked the defeating of ISIS as one of your top missions,” Rivlin noted. “This is a most important objective. Israel will do everything in its power in order to assist you in this mission.”
Trump also affirmed a need for both countries to join forces to combat terror groups like ISIS. “This moment in history calls for us to strengthen our cooperation as both Israel and America face common threats from ISIS and other terrorist groups to countries like Iran that sponsor terrorism and fund and foment terrible violence, not only here, but all over the world,” he said.
Rivlin stressed a need “to be sure that Iran is out, out of our borders, out of Syria, out of Lebanon.” Israel has previously voiced its concerns with Iran setting up shop near its Syrian border, especially since the start of the Syrian civil war.
Trump emphasized that Israel’s Arab neighbors share its concerns about Iran, which has brought them closer to a rapprochement with the Jewish state. “What’s happened with Iran has brought many other parts of the Middle East toward Israel,” Trump said. “I’ve seen such a different feeling toward Israel from countries that, as you know, were not feeling so well about Israel not so long ago.”
“Most importantly the United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon and must cease its deadly funding, training, and equipping of terrorists and militias and it must cease immediately,” Trump added at the press conference.
Trump called on Middle Eastern leaders to combat a “crisis of Islamic extremism” emanating from the region, casting the fight against terrorism as a “battle between good and evil,” not a clash between the West and Islam.
Netanyahu’s package of goodwill gestures ahead of Trump’s visit to Israel included retroactive approval of illegal Palestinian construction. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had decided to cede territory under Israeli control in Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians as part of a package of goodwill gestures to the Palestinians ahead of Trump’s arrival in Israel.
This is the first time Netanyahu has made such a gesture since 2009.
The package also includes economic concessions and the opening the Allenby border crossing from Israel to Jordan 24 hours a day, in order to ease the passage for Palestinians. The gestures were reportedly made following a request by Trump. The Palestinian leadership has yet to introduce any confidence-building measures and even refused Trump’s demand to cease paying salaries to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists and their families, saying the request was “crazy.”
After his joint press conference with President Rivlin, Trump headed for the Old City of Jerusalem where his first stop was a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
As was reported by the Catholic News Service, under tight security and led by the traditional kawas honor guard announcing the way with the thumping of their ornamental staffs, the president made his way by foot through the Old City’s alleyways to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He and first lady Melania Trump were welcomed at the entrance of the church courtyard by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Archbishop Theophilos III; Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land; and Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian. The president spoke briefly to the religious leaders and stopped at the entrance of the church for a group photograph after also speaking to a few other religious.
Trump, who also was accompanied into the church by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spent about 30 minutes in the church, which encompasses the area where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was crucified, buried and later rose from the dead. At the entrance of the church is the stone of unction, where tradition holds that Jesus’ body was laid out and washed after his crucifixion. Inside the central rotunda is the newly renovated Edicule, where Jesus was allegedly buried.
President Trump then made his way to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which is one of Judaism’s holiest sites. According to an NBC News reports, Trump later called it a “great honor” to visit the wall, saying, “I can see a much deeper path, friendship with Israel.” He spent several moments at the Western Wall in a highly pensive and reflective mode.
Trump left a message in the Western Wall’s crevices as do many visitors. Those notes are collected periodically and buried at the nearby Mount of Olives cemetery. George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama each visited the Western Wall as private citizens or candidates. None of them was accompanied by an Israeli prime minister, and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not join Trump for his visit.
On the women’s section of the Western Wall stood his wife Melania and daughter Ivanka who converted to Judaism upon her marriage to billionaire Jared Kushner. Both women stood in solemn prayer at the holy site.
The historic visit is part of Trump’s efforts to highlight “the need for unity among three of the world’s great religions” on his first foreign trip, senior administration officials said.
After his trip to the Old City, Trump met in private with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the two then held a joint press conference.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told Trump: “We protect the Christian [holy] sites as no one else does in this region. We’re committed to the freedom of all faiths and the rights of all.”
He thanked Trump for being the first sitting US President to visit the Western Wall earlier that day and for Trump’s forceful policy on Iran and against the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Syria.
“For the first time in my lifetime, I see a real hope for change” and peace, Netanyahu told Trump.
President Trump said that he was “deeply moved” by his visit to the Western Wall. “Words fail to capture the experience. It will leave an impression on me forever,” Trump said.
He said that “many things” are possible now which were not possible before, including stopping the threats of Islamic terrorism and Iranian aggression. Trump thanked Netanyahu for his efforts in renewing the peace process with the Palestinian Authority. “He’s working very hard at it,” Trump said.
Trump said that the US, Israel, and the moderate Arab states had to work together to stop Iranian aggression and expansion, as well as Iran’s nuclear weapons program. He spoke of his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, and said that the kingdom’s “feelings towards Israel are really very positive. I think that a lot of that progress has been made because of the aggression of Iran, and it’s forcing people together in a positive way. No matter where we are, we see the signs, whether its assault teams, whether it’s money and guns, it’s Iran. Believe me, Iran will never have a nuclear weapon.”
Trump also addressed accusations that he shared Israeli intelligence with Russian officials during a recent meeting at the White House at the end of the briefing. “Just so you know, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel during that conversation [with the Russian officials,” Trump said. “So you [the press] got another story wrong.”
On Tuesday, it was reported that Trump said he’s “truly hopeful” America can help Israel and the Palestinians broker a peace deal following his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, according to an ABC News report.
“I am committed to trying to achieve a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians and I intend to do everything I can to help them achieve that goal,” President Trump said. “Abbas assures me he is ready to work towards that goal in good faith and Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the same,” said Trump, standing next to Abbas at the Presidential Palace.
President Trump also offered his condolences to the families of the victims and those injured in the terror attack overnight in Manchester that left 22 dead and 59 others injured, according to the ABC News report.
“We stand in absolute solidarity with people of the United Kingdom,” Trump said. “So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life.” Trump also commented that “it’s so interesting” his meeting with Abbas took place “on this very horrible morning of death to innocent young people.”
“We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice,” Trump said, seeming to allude to criticism from Israel that Palestinians are too hesitant to condemn attacks initially.
By: Fern Sidman
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