President Donald Trump (R) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint news conference at the White House. .
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
US President Donald Trump may visit Israel soon, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Wednesday According to media reports, a delegation of American officials are due to arrive on Thursday to prepare for the visit, which would likely happen in late May or early June.
Those dates would place him in Israel around the time the country will be marking the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are expected to join him, the reports said.
Netanyahu and Trump meet for first time in Washington at joint White House press conference on Feb. 15, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)
“When he [Trump] arrives, we will happily welcome him,” Hotovely (Likud) told Army Radio, saying talks regarding such a visit are under way between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau and Trump’s office but that no date has been set.
Separately, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is likely to visit Israel in June, according to Channel 2.
In late May, Trump is expected to travel to Europe for his first overseas visit since taking office on January 20.
He will attend a high-level summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on May 25, and would likely head to Israel after that visit. A senior US administration official said last week a stop in Saudi Arabia might be added.
A Trump visit to Israel so early in his presidency would be yet another step that would endear him to the country.
“Since Trump entered the White House, we feel that we have a true friend there,” Hotovely said.
Former US president Barack Obama visited the region in the first year of his presidency, but skipped over Israel, arriving in the Jewish state only in 2013 at the start of his second term in office.
Word of the possible visit comes as Trump is in the midst of a push to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been frozen since April 2014.
Already in February, Trump hosted Netanyahu at the White House, followed by meetings there with King Abdullah of Jordan and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is to meet with Trump at the White House on May 3. A Palestinian delegation was in Washington this week to prepare for the trip.
Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt has already visited the region to hold talks with Israelis and Palestinians, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis visited Israel this month.
The White House had no comment about a possible Trump visit.
If Trump’s visit takes place as reported, it would precede a critical deadline for his administration: a rolling waiver, expiring on June 1, on a congressional mandate to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The State Department said it is aware of the deadline and declined to comment on whether Trump would renew the waiver, which has been extended each year since 1995. Trump campaigned on a promise to move the embassy, but has held back since taking office, fearing it would hurt his chances of renewing negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Trump officials have engaged in “good preliminary talks” with both sides toward “creating a climate” for peace talks, a State Department official said on Wednesday.
The official said the administration is aware of a Peace Now report that Israel continues settlement construction on land presumed to be part of a future Palestinian state under any peace accord.
“President Trump was very clear, both publicly and privately,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. “Further unrestrained settlement activity doesn’t help.
“We’ve made that clear to the Israeli government. They understand our concerns about this,” he said.