Trump’s First Middle East Visit Brings Praise and Concern
By most accounts, the President’s first major trip as Commander-in-Chief has been a success. First visiting with the Saudis, and now continuing on to meet with Israeli leaders, the President is driving the theme of alliances and resolve in combating extremism and terrorism in the region. However, some Israelis are concerned that the President’s stance has softened some since his days on the campaign trail last year.
McClatchy reports on the sentiment in Israel with the President’s visit:
The Israeli love affair with President Donald Trump is souring as promises have gone unfulfilled.
The Israeli public was very excited when Trump took office. They anticipated a fresh start after a fraught relationship with Barack Obama, who many thought was overly sympathetic to the Palestinians.
But reality has set in as all Trump’s earlier talk – of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, of not worrying about Jewish settlements in Arab land and of dropping insistence on the pesky two-state solution – appears to have been just that: talk.
“He’s like any politician,” said Shlamit Lev-ran, 24, an art student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “They say one thing and then after they’re elected they do another. I see no difference.”
“Trump and Obama, they want the same thing,” said Elie Adler, a 60-year-old shopkeeper in downtown Jerusalem. “They just serve it up in a different dish.”
Generally speaking though, the visit by the President is a welcome event in Israel, despite some misgivings on the part of some Israeli government officials:
All the trappings of a warm welcome are on display in anticipation of Trump’s arrival Monday. U.S. flags are flying alongside Israeli ones at Ben-Gurion International Airport, outside Tel Aviv. Posters declaring “Jerusalem welcomes Trump” hang across the city and are pasted to walls.
Yet there are signs of uncertainty: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered all of his Cabinet ministers to attend the airport welcome for Trump after he learned some planned to skip it, according to Army Radio.
The theme of Trump’s speech at the Arab Islamic American Summit hammered his push to “drive out the extremists,” as reported by ABC News:
In his first high-stakes speech abroad, President Trump called on Middle Eastern nations to “drive out” extremists.
“The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their country and, frankly, for their families and for their children,” Trump said to a roomful of leaders from more than 50 predominantly Muslim countries.
“It’s a choice between two futures, and it is a choice America cannot make for you. A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists. Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this Earth,” he said.
The president’s speech at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Ridyadh, Saudi Arabia, came on the second day of a trip that the administration sees as a chance to “start a new chapter in the history of the region,” as one senior administration official told ABC News.
The President flew direct from Saudi Arabia to Israel, which in itself was historic in nature since a direct flight between the two nations by Air Force One has never happened before:
President Donald Trump made a direct flight Monday between two nations that have historically been sworn enemies, Saudi Arabia and Israel — a first for Air Force One.
Trump traveled from Riyadh to Tel Aviv in what appears to be an unprecedented direct flight by a U.S. president between those nations, which don’t have diplomatic relations, in a region fraught with tension.
“It’s a direct flight,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One. Of the hopes for a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians, Tillerson added, “There’s a moment in time here.”
Speculation of such a flight by Trump into Israel from the Saudi capital has swirled for weeks. The Haaretz newspaper noted that two past sitting U.S. presidents — Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton — had previously flown from Syria into Israel, but none had made the flight directly from Saudi Arabia.
The trip couldn’t have come at a better time considering the sour political environment that is shaping up domestically for the President and his agenda. As the Special Counsel begins taking over the Russia investigation, and Democrats firm up their opposition, there is little in the way of good news for Trump here on the home front. He tends to score higher marks in poll numbers when dealing with foreign policy matters since Americans tend to like America taking a stronger stance in the world.
The result of the President’s Middle East trip will surely help if the rest of the trip goes as smoothly as the Saudi visit, but it doesn’t erase the political realities facing him when he returns.
Filed in: Foreign Policy Tagged in: air force one Arab Islamic American Summit foreign policy Israel Middle East peace process Saudi Arabia trump