Published: Mon, May 22, 2017
World Media | By Joan Schultz

Donald Trump visits Jerusalem to seek paths to Israeli-Palestinian peace

Trump's visit is part of his first trip overseas as president and follows an initial two-day stop in Saudi Arabia, where he urged Islamic leaders to take a stand against violence committed in the name of religion.

During a speech in Riyadh on Sunday in which he urged Arab and Islamic leaders to do their share to defeat Islamist militants, Trump referred to "Islamic extremism", although advance excerpts had him saying "Islamist extremism".

Trump's first official trip outside the United States included a visit to Saudi Arabia, where he signed $350-billion arms deal.

Administration officials told CNN last week that Trump would not announce the embassy move during the trip, but did not rule out making the declaration in the future. In the eyes of many Israelis, whether or not they agree with his ideals and policies, he is perceived as the American version of Netanyahu: capitalistic, hawkish, and suspicious toward the Muslim world (especially Iran).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he hoped a visit to Israel by President Donald Trump would be a "historic milestone" in achieving regional peace.

Steinitz says the deal is "definitely something that should trouble us".

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White House aides have played down expectations for significant progress on the peace process during Trump's stop, casting it as more symbolic than substantive.

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White House adviser Dina Powell tells reporters that a memorandum of understanding signed by the US and GCC nations represents the "farthest reaching commitment" to not finance terrorist organizations.

"These are concessions ahead of Trump's visit that do not harm Israel's interests", an Israeli diplomatic source said.

He flies in from Saudi Arabia, a key U.S. ally, where he gave a speech to Arab and Muslim leaders at a summit.

Trump is also calling el-Sissi his "friend" and praising him for the release of USA aid worker Aya Hijazi, who had been held captive for three years.

There has been some consternation in Israel in the run-up to Mr Trump's trip over remarks made by administration officials.

The third factor that could contribute to Trump's efforts is his unexpected prioritization and personal investment in solving the conflict. He is on a nine-day trip through the Middle East and Europe that ends on Saturday after visits to the Vatican, Brussels and Sicily. And so very early in Trump's presidency, I think, they just want Trump to go home happy. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking to reporters on Air Force One, said the U.S. could provide clarifications to Israel about what happened but said, "I don't know that there's anything to apologize for".

According to reports in the Israeli media, an angry Netanyahu was informed on Sunday that party heads and a number of ministers planned to skip the reception after the White House had asked for the meet and greet to be shortened to the two countries' anthems and handshakes only between Netanyahu and Trump. The area is home to sensitive religious sites, including the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray. In his speech attended by dozens of Arab and Islamic leaders, he toned down the harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric he had employed during the presidential campaign previous year in favor of trying to gain cooperation against Islamist militants.

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