Trump faces diplomatic hurdles during 28 hours in the Holy Land


Mr. Netanyahu, on the heels of a famously bad relationship with former President Barack Obama that both sides did little to hide, has gone out of his way to signal that Mr. Trump is a president he can deal with.

Every piece of food for the president will be certified as safe, with a tester overseen by Israeli and USA security officials perusing every meal destined for Trump and his family. He arrives in Israel on Monday after stopping first in Riyadh, while his Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt landed in Israel on Thursday to prepare for the president's visit.

Prior to the announcement, Israel's Channel 2 reported that a US official told Israeli officials that Netanyahu was not welcome to join Trump during the trip to the wall because the area was part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Whereas on January 11, 79 percent of Israelis said they found Trump more pro-Israeli than pro-Palestinian, now only 56 percent of those questioned said they thought so, according to a Smith Research poll commissioned by The Jerusalem Post.

The decision would break a major campaign promise from Trump who vowed to make the highly controversial move, but would likely stave off a major diplomatic crisis.

The holy site has been at the center of a diplomatic spat between the United States and Israel over the past week after an American diplomat told Israeli officials that the Western Wall was not part of Israel and not Israel's responsibility. Writing about another divisive incident in the West Bank - a solidarity visit by leaders of the Zionist Union party to the Maale Adumim settlement - Ravit Hecht terms it on the paper's op-ed page "misbegotten", noting that it has split members of the center-left party. The Trumps will visit Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium, and the trip includes an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican. After years of tension with the Obama administration over settlement construction, it seemed that the lid was off.

But the more interesting aspect is the way in which this will wreak havoc internally, as there is a clear divide between Trump officials who think that the Western Wall is in Israel and Trump officials who think it is not.

Some Gulf Arab diplomats have floated the notion of making a positive gesture toward Israel, possibly a limited upgrading of diplomatic and economic ties, in exchange for up-front concessions to the Palestinians. Some hailed the demise of the two-state solution. But he told CNN that he can't remember a Trump trip ever happening.

But then came signs that the Trump administration was not giving Israel a free pass when it came to the Palestinians.

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Still, the White House once hoped the trip, wrapped in the pomp and circumstance of diplomatic protocol, could offer a chance at a reset after a tumultuous first four months in office.

It looks unlikely Trump will manage to get Netanyahu and Abbas to shake hands during his 28-hour visit to the Holy Land, and the prospects of him setting a timetable for a resumption of peace talks also look dim. "We do it by educating on these critical issues and by urging them to take action when the interests of America and Israel are at stake". The generals' plan would also immediately improve Israel's security and enhance its regional and worldwide standing, while improving living and economic conditions for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. Given the competing claims, the USA and most countries maintain embassies in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem.

All of which has set the stage for a presidential visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority whose substance is still very much an enigma.

Despite Trump's best intentions, there is no indication that the Palestinians' position has changed.

Still, his declared determination to push for what he has called the "ultimate deal" has the potential of unnerving both sides, who have gone out of their way to praise his leadership. They certainly will not hear any of this from either the media or the drooling politicians who will be outdoing each other in flattering rhetoric. "Neither group speaks for the other and neither group recognizes Israel's right to exist".

"Abbas is anxious that he will be pressured into entering a process that's damaging to him domestically if he's seen to be backing down on all the demands he has reiterated over the years", Mr.

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Trump's volatile personality and sharp policy swerves are another unsettling factor. "I expect there are going to be a lot of details, perhaps even the kinds of details that were reportedly spilled to the Russians the other day that in previous administrations might routinely go all the way to the man at the top, but in this one may be confined to the level of Gen. [H.R.] McMaster or the secretaries of state and defense". The wall is in the Old City, a part of east Jerusalem, which the US and most of the world consider to be occupied territory.