Trump embraces Israel, but Russian ties still trail him

Posted May 28, 2017

U.S President Donald Trump makes a statement after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Tuesday, May 23, 2017, in the West Bank City of Bethlehem. "We don't need the oil anymore, but now Donald Trump says it's in our interest because we want to oppose Iran, who he believes is the driver of terrorism in the Middle East".

"We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and to its people", Trump said upon arrival in Tel Aviv.

(Yuri Kochetkov/Pool photo via AP, File).

President Donald Trump on Tuesday condemned the "evil losers" responsible for a deadly attack on concert-goers in England and called on leaders in the Middle East in particular to help root out violence.

During his quick stop in the region, Trump met with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Trump, who is making his first visit to Israel as U.S. president, said: "I never mentioned the word or the name Israel in that conversation".

Netanyahu said he hoped an Israeli prime minister could soon make the same flight.

Still, Trump was enthusiastically received by Netanyahu, who leapt to his feet when the president declared that his administration "will always stand with Israel".

Various reports, quoting anonymous officials, have said Trump did share classified information with Russian diplomats about the threat posed by the Islamic State group, and several have said that information came from Israeli intelligence.

While Israeli officials cheered Trump's election, some are now wary of the tougher line he has taken on settlements: urging restraint but not calling for a full halt to construction. Trump has also retreated from a campaign pledge to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, bending to the same diplomatic and security concerns as other presidents who have made similar promises.

At the same time, Abbas and the Palestinians have been pleasantly surprised by their dealings with Trump.

Jon Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Iran's willingness to meddle in the Middle East also requires Trump to consider this: "How do you escape a dynamic whereby Iran keeps doing cheap, asymmetrical things that force you to do expensive things?"

"So many young, handsome innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers in life", Trump said, echoing the theme he presented during his meetings with Arab leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Trump was joined by first lady Melania Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump. But obstacles have emerged that may complicate the relationship between the White House and the Knesset. He also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, believed to be where Jesus was buried and resurrected. Wearing black skull cap, he became the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, the most holy site at which Jews can pray. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley declared the site part of Israel, while U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday dodged the question.

David Pollock, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Trump's Israel visit was highly significant, and signified that the USA relationship with Israel will be much warmer than it was under the previous US administration.

The visit raised questions about whether the USA would indicate the site is Israeli territory. The US has never recognized Israeli sovereignty over parts of the Old City seized in the 1967 war.

Trump's comments, the newspaper added, in effect tied "the future of the anti-Iran coalition to the Palestinian issue despite Mr. Netanyahu's longtime efforts to unlink the two".