US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One for his first international trip as president, including stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, Brussels and at the G7 summit in Sicily, from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, US May 19, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With final preparations at the Ben-Gurion Airport completed Sunday evening, Israel is expectantly awaiting US President Donald Trump's first visit to Israel as sitting president.
At 12:15 p.m. the Air Force 1 jet is slated to land at Ben-Gurion in a direct flight from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where Trump passed two days on the first leg of his nine-day journey abroad.
Other jets flanking the Air Force 1 and carrying mostly press officials are expected to make a brief stop in Cyprus, despite the fact that the distance between Saudi Arabia and Israel does not necessitate a break for refueling. The message behind the pause in Cyprus is that there are no direct flights between Saudi Arabia to Israel.
The airport, where an opening ceremony will kick off Trump's stay in Israel, is looking more festive than ever with Israel and US flags on proud display along the routes leading to and from it.
Nearby US Army choppers are already parked, and aboard are the crew members that will take Trump and his team after the 40-minute ceremony to a special landing strip that has been laid in advance in Jerusalem. Some of the logistics that went into the preparations included a delivery of seven helicopters and eight armored vehicles that were brought in via huge cargo planes.
Except for press, other attendees at the reception ceremony will be political dignitaries, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, the ministers who decide to participate
, security establishment officials, the prime minister and the president (who are scheduled to make speeches after Trump).
Israel prepares for Trump visit (credit: REUTERS)
Later in the day Trump is expected to be hosted by President Reuven Rivlin at his residence in Jerusalem, followed by a visit to the Old City with stops at the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In the evening Trump will dine with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Tuesday he will meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and immediately thereafter the US president is supposed to return to Jerusalem for a very brief visit to Israel's Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem. From there Trump will head straight to the Israel Museum, where he is expected to make a speech with which his trip to the Middle East will conclude.
From the museum, after a little over a day's stay in the Jewish state, Trump will leave Israel and set off from Ben-Gurion for the rest of his trip, with the next destination being Italy and the Vatican.
Trump's updated Israel schedule:Monday12:15 p.m.
Landing in Ben-Gurion Airport
Visit to the President's Residence
. Visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Visit to the Western Wall
Arrival at the King David Hotel
Dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday10:00 a.m.
Trip to Bethlehem
Visit to Yad Vashem
Arrival at Israel Museum
Departure from Israel