US President Donald Trump ended his 28-hour trip to Israel Tuesday afternoon extolling the prospects of Israeli-Palestinian peace but leaving no clear indication of how he plans to help bring it closer.
Trump, who flew from Tel Aviv to Rome on the third leg of his first trip abroad as president, made no mention in seven public appearances in Israel of a Palestinian state, a two-state solution or settlements, something one senior government official said was a refreshing break from Trump’s predecessor.
On the other hand, the president also made no mention of his campaign pledge
to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
During the concluding speech of his visit at the Israel Museum, in front of several hundred people invited by the Prime Minister’s Office and the US Embassy, Trump delivered a strongly pro-Israel speech. In it, he framed his stops here and in Saudi Arabia – not in terms of searching for a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict but – as “bringing nations together around the goal of defeating the terrorism that threatens the world and crushing the hateful ideology that drives it so hard and seems to be driving it so fast.”
Trump’s speech came soon after he visited Yad Vashem.
Prior to that, he traveled to Bethlehem for a one-hour meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
. There, he said, “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.”
Trump arrived in Israel on Monday after he visited Saudi Arabia and met with Arab and Muslim leaders there. He called that meeting historic, and said it “represents a new opportunity for people throughout the Middle East to overcome sectarian and religious divisions, to extinguish the fires of extremism and to find common ground and shared responsibility in making the future of this region so much better than it is right now.
“My message to that summit was the same message I have for you: We must build a coalition of partners who share the aim of stamping out extremists and violence and providing our children a peaceful and hopeful future. But a hopeful future for children in the Middle East requires the world to fully recognize the vital role of the State of Israel,” Trump continued.
He did not, however, elaborate on follow-up steps.
Though Trump made no mention of his oft-repeated election pledge to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, he did extol the city, saying its “beauty, splendor and heritage are like no other place on earth.”
He also underscored the Jewish people’s ties to Israel, saying these ties “are ancient and eternal.”
Trump singled out Hamas and Hezbollah for condemnation for launching rockets into Muslim communities; Islamic State for targeting Jewish neighborhoods and synagogues; and Iran for routinely calling for Israel’s destruction.
Then he added, to applause, “Not with Donald J. Trump, believe me.”
“All decent people want to live in peace, and all humanity is threatened by the evils of terrorism,” Trump said, adding that diverse nations can unite around protecting innocent life, upholding human dignity and promoting peace in the region.
“My administration is committed to pursuing such a coalition, and we have already made substantial progress during this trip,” he said. “We know, for instance, that both Israelis and Palestinians seek lives of hope for their children.
And we know that peace is possible if we put aside the pain and disagreements of the past and commit together to finally resolving this crisis, which has dragged on for nearly half a century or more.”
Trump reiterated that he is personally committed to helping Israel and the Palestinians reach a peace agreement, and that – after meeting with Abbas earlier in the day – he could say the “Palestinians are ready to reach peace.”
“I know you’ve heard it before. I am telling you – that’s what I do. They are ready to reach for peace,” he said. “My very good friend, [Prime Minister] Benjamin [Netanyahu], also wants peace.”
But while seeking peace, he said, both Israel and the US will “build strength to defend our nations.” He reiterated that the US is “firmly committed” to preventing Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon. “We are telling you right now that Iran will not have nuclear weapons,” he stated unequivocally.
A White House statement of the meeting Trump held with Netanyahu on Monday indicated that the two men discussed a recently concluded arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth some $110 billion, which has raised some concerns in Jerusalem. According to the statement, Trump reassured Netanyahu that the US remains committed to preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.
Israel, the president said in his speech, “is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.” He noted that while Jews have endured persecution, oppression and attempts to destroy them, they have endured and thrived.
“I stand in awe of the accomplishments of the Jewish people and I make this promise to you: My administration will always stand with Israel,” he added.
Netanyahu, in remarks at the museum, thanked Trump for his “steadfast friendship to the Jewish people and the Jewish state,” saying it is “deeply, deeply appreciated.”
He said that he believes a “durable peace” between Israel, its Arab neighbors and the Palestinians can be reached “because of the common danger that the Arab world and Israel face from Iran, and because of the leadership that you bring to this process.”
Netanyahu added that a crucial step toward genuine peace is for Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to “stop rewarding terrorists, stop glorifying murderers.”
The prime minister noted that Abbas, at his meeting with Trump, condemned the terrorist attack in Manchester.
“Well, I hope this heralds a real change,” he said. “Because if the attacker had been Palestinian and the victims had been Israeli children, the suicide bomber’s family would have received a stipend from the Palestinian Authority. That’s Palestinian law. That law must be changed.”
Before leaving, Trump huddled for 10 minutes with opposition leader Isaac Herzog and reiterated his commitment to working toward a peace agreement.
Just prior to taking off, Trump posted the following on his Twitter account: “Thank you for such a wonderful and unforgettable visit, Prime Minister @Netanyahu and @PresidentRuvi. Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East were great. Trying hard for PEACE. Doing well. Heading to Vatican & Pope, then #G7 and #NATO. All civilized nations must join together to protect human life and the sacred right of our citizens to live in safety and in peace.”