U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday makes his first official visit to Israel, where he is determined to broker a long elusive peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Trump’s schedule includes talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center.
He also will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and become the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Western Wall – Judaism’s holiest site.
Trump, who prides himself as a first-rate dealmaker, has called peace between Israel and the Palestinians the “ultimate deal.” But since becoming president, he has given few hints on how he intends to pursue that goal.
Trump said during the presidential campaign that the best way to negotiate an agreement is taking what he called an “objective” approach to the serious and extremely emotional issues keeping both sides far apart. But he has said continued Israeli settlements do not help the peace process.
He also is backing away from his promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Despite what some Israelis may perceive as discouraging rhetoric from Trump, the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, tells the Israel Hayom newspaper that it is time for “the parties to meet with each other without preconditions and to begin a discussion that would hopefully lead to peace.”
There have been no full-fledged peace talks since 2014.
Tensions have festered over Israeli settlement expansion and Palestinian violence sparked by rumors Israel was planning to completely take over an east Jerusalem holy site, sacred to both Jews and Muslims.
Israel Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of its occupation of east Jerusalem, captured during the Six-Day War.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel did not occupy Jerusalem, but instead “liberated” it. He said Jerusalem always was and always will be the Israeli capital. He urged Israeli allies to move their embassies there.
The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. The international community has said the status of Jerusalem must be settled in peace negotiations.