Western Wall visit more important than embassy relocation, says Hanegbi

He was among a large number of Israeli ministers and politicians who were pleased by Trump’s visit, in spite of some disappointment.

May 25, 2017 03:09
3 minute read.
US President Donald Trump places a note in the Western Wall, 22 May 2017

US President Donald Trump places a note in the stones of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City May 22, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST)

US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Western Wall is more important than a decision to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem at this time, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said.

He was among a large number of Israeli ministers and politicians who were pleased by Trump’s visit, in spite of some disappointment. They spoke with The Jerusalem Post on the sidelines of Trump’s speech at the Israel Museum on Tuesday.

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Hanegbi (Likud) said he hopes that in the future, Trump will make good on his preelection pledge to relocate the embassy.

But the embassy will “be moved to west Jerusalem, a place that is not in dispute.

The Kotel and the Temple Mount are in a disputed area, in the Old City,” Hanegbi said.

Trump was the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall. As a result, Hanegbi said, a US president was exposed for the first time to the love and attachment the Jews feel for their holiest sites.

“I believe that we heard an American president that loves Israel and understands Israel” and “is not going to change his commitment to this holy place,” Hanegbi said.
Israeli Minister Tzachi Hanegbi on Trump's visit (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said Trump’s speech “was an expression of deep friendship to Israel and a fresh way of thinking,” particularly with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Unlike his predecessors, Hotovely said, Trump did not try to dictate the terms of any future agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. She was particularly pleased that Trump has spoken out against the Palestinian Authority payments to terrorists and their families, and that he did not criticize settlement building, “after so many presidents speaking of an agreement that should be reached between Israelis and Palestinians in a certain way, and only in one direction.”

MK Michael Oren (Kulanu), a former ambassador to the US, said Trump’s visit was a message of support and love for Israel.

He added that the Trump administration created the possibility of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by removing the two key demands: a two-state solution to the pre-1967 lines and a settlement freeze as a precondition for talks.

Instead, Oren said, Trump has given the Palestinians and Arab leaders incentives to come up with more appropriate formulas for peace-building in the region.

He added that no Israeli government could have met the demands set by the Obama administration, which put so many obstacles in the path of peace that progress was impossible.

During this visit, Oren said, Trump “removed those obstacles.”
Israeli MK Michael Oren, former Israeli Ambassador to the US on Trump's visit and the peace process (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

Former foreign minister MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said that Trump “needs to know that in Israel there is a majority to make a big deal, peace between us and the entire Arab world. I agree with the president that there is an opportunity here, but it is time for leaders to seize that opportunity.”

Livni said that “the trip to Israel is very important,” but that “no less important is the day after. This is the visit embracing Israel. We embrace the US and the president as well. Now it is time for policy- making.”
MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union), former foreign minister, on Trump's visit and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said that Iran had been the “main topic” of the visit, both on the president’s first stop in Saudi Arabia and in Israel, as Trump sought to create a regional alliance against Tehran.

Iranian aggression all over the Middle East – in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Gaza – is the main threat for Israel and for the Sunni Arab states, Steinitz said, adding: “I am happy that the US, finally, after three or four years of appeasement of the Iranians, decided under the Trump leadership to create some kind of regional alliance.”

He was, however, concerned that the $110 billion arms deal the US signed with Saudi Arabia during Trump’s visit could, in the future, harm Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.

“No one can say in the Middle East what will be the Saudi position five or 10 years from now,” Steinitz said. “Therefore, this is a matter of concern for Israel.”
Minister Yuval Steinitz on Trump's visit, Iran and Israel's military qualitative edge (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

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