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 is considering a visit to Israel in the near future, a senior White House official confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
"We are exploring the possibility of a future visit to Israel as well as other countries," the official said, after Israeli government officials first leaked news of a potential visit to local press.
A delegation of American officials will reportedly travel to Israel on Thursday to prepare for the visit, slated for late May or early June. That would place the president in Israel around the time the country's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War.
It will also precede a critical deadline for the Trump administration: The June 1 expiration of a rolling waiver on a congressional mandate to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
A State Department spokesman said on Wednesday 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’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 president's daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, are likely to join Trump should he visit in the coming weeks.
Netanyahu hails "new day" in Israel-US relations after meeting with Trump (credit: REUTERS)
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.
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," Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Army Radio earlier in the day. "When he arrives, we will happily welcome him."