Settler leaders want to tell US President Donald Trump they are not a “stumbling bloc to peace” when he arrives at Ben Gurion International Airport on Monday.The settler leaders live in an area of the country which the US does not consider to be part of Israel. Still, a number of them will be among the dignitaries at the red carpet ceremony to be held when Trump disembarks.Should they shake Trump's hand or exchange pleasantries, the leaders have prepared a message for the US president.“I will say that Ma’aleh Adumim is not a stumbling bloc to peace. It is part of Israel and we have to continue to build there,” the city’s mayor Benny Kashriel said.Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who was the only settler leader to publicly endorse Trump during the elections, said he remains firm in his conviction that this US president is more supportive of Israel than any of his predecessors.There is an “historic opportunity” here for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to help improve American policy toward Israel, including with respect to Judea and Samaria, he said.“It’s clear that Trump is an American patriot and not an Israeli patriot” and as a result his interests are different from that of the Israeli government, Dagan said.But there is no doubt that he favors Israel, Dagan added.
Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman and Avi Ro’eh who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria will also be at the welcoming ceremony.This will be Dagan and Kashriel’s second time at a Trump ceremony, having also been present in Washington for Trump’s inauguration.No other US president has come to Israel within months of taking office and Israel will be the second foreign country that Trump visits after Saudi Arabia.But as with his predecessors, the issue of West Bank settlements is likely to be one of the more contentious parts of his conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.The map the White House posted about his trip did not include Area C of the West Bank, where all the Israeli settlements are located. This is not the first time, however, that settlers leaders have greeted a visiting US president. Four settler leaders were part of the welcoming celebration for former US President Barack Obama when he landed at Ben Gurion International Airport in 2013.
Trump tells Israel to "hold back on settlements" during meeting with Netanyahu at White House on Feb. 15, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)