Trump meets with PM Netanyahu in a productive first day in Israel

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TEL AVIV, ISRAEL (LC)

U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Israel today as his first diplomatic tour to the country. Donald Trump recently left Saudi Arabia, where he signed a multi-billion dollar trade deal.

President Trump engages in Saudi ceremonial sword dance known as the ardah, Riyadh, May 20, 2017

Israel-US relationships have somewhat soured since President Trump recently released classified information to Russia gathered from Israeli intelligence. Still, some Israeli officials remained optimistic.

President Trump arrived Monday morning in Tel Aviv to a welcome ceremony, which, reportedly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered ministers to attend.

Prior to their scheduled press conference, Trump and Netanyahu addressed the press pool. Netanyahu praised the intelligence cooperation between Israel and the U.S. as “terrific,” prompting President Trump to say to the pool reporters, “Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel. Never mentioned it during that conversation. They were all saying I did. So you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel.” It has not been reported that President Trump openly credited Israel as the intel source.

Trump and Netanyahu then spoke at a brief joint news conference. On his first trip abroad as President, Trump praised the “generosity” of the Israeli people, and reaffirmed the “unbreakable bond of friendship” between Israel and the United States. President Trump emphasized the desire for Israel to have a lasting peace.  Trump also reaffirmed his position as to Iran, stating that Israel and the US must face the threat of “an Iranian regime that is threatening the region,” causing “so much violence and suffering.” Trump had earlier in the day voiced criticism of the Obama administration’s Iran deal.

Trump also focused on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, calling it “one of the toughest deals of all.” “They want to stop the killing, they’ve had enough,” Trump stressed, confirming that the U.S. will use all efforts to assist.

Trump earlier visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, home of what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus Christ, and stopped at the Western Wall, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit Judaism’s holiest site.

Trump has caused some dissension by not traveling to Masada, an ancient fortress of King Herod and the site of the first Jewish-Roman War, because he could not land his helicopter on the UNESCO heritage site. Trump also upset some Israelis after only scheduling approximately 15 minutes to visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to Holocaust victims.

Simmy Allen, a spokesman for Yad Vashem, said, “He is taking the opportunity to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to identify with the memory, which is meaningful.”

During his visit, Israeli authorities may pressure Donald Trump on the location of the US Embassy. Currently, the US Embassy is in Tel Aviv, but Donald Trump promised to move the embassy to Jerusalem during the campaign trail.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Donald Trump (AP)

On Tuesday, Trump is scheduled to meet with the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas. Tensions have been especially high due to a mass hunger strike of Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Mr. Abbas recently visited the White House.

President Trump and Mahmoud Abbas Abbas (AP)

U.S. National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, said that President Trump will “convey his administration’s eagerness to facilitate an agreement that ends the [Arab-Israeli] conflict,” and that Trump will “urge Palestinian leaders to take steps that will help lead to peace.”

A mere hour before the President’s arrival a car ramming incident had occurred. Motives remain clouded, thus sending the already tense security situation into overdrive.

J. David Thompson, Political Correspondent, Lima Charlie News (reporting from Tel Aviv)

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