Trump Encourages Israel to Team Up With Arab Neighbors Against Iran

Published May 23rd, 2017 - 05:00 GMT
US President Donald Trump (L) and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deliver press statements before an official dinner in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump (L) and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deliver press statements before an official dinner in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

US President Donald Trump encouraged Israel to make good with its Arab neighbours through their shared enemy, Iran, while in Jerusalem on Monday during his first trip abroad as US president. 

"In my visit to Saudi Arabia, I met with many leaders of the Arab world," said Trump at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Jerusalem residence. "These leaders voiced concerns that we all share about Iran's rising ambitions and rolling back its gains."

Netanyahu, whose staunch opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal led to an acrimonious fallout with president Barack Obama, praised Trump's reversal on US policy on Iran. "Together we can roll back Iran's march of aggression and terror in the region."

"For the first time in many years, and in my lifetime, I see potential for change," Netanyahu added.

Trump, calling Middle East peace "one of the toughest deals," also said he was certain that "we will get there eventually" and that new partnerships to bring peace to the turbulent region were possible.

Trump has called the nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers "the worst deal ever," and the US is currently evaluating whether to remain in the accord. Last week, the Trump administration waived sanctions under the Iran deal, but slapped new sanctions on Tehran over its ballistic missile programme.

Trump hammered his tough stance on Iran as soon as he arrived in Israel on Monday after a two-day visit to the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. "There is growing realization among your Arab neighbours of the commonality of the threat emanating from Iran," he said at a welcome ceremony at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport.

"Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon - never ever," added Trump later at an event at the Israeli president's house.

Security in Jerusalem was on high alert with more than 10,000 patrol units involved in securing the two-day visit, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. 

Trump became the first sitting president to visit Jerusalem's Old City, first going to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where Jesus Christ is believed to have been buried and resurrected, before going to the Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites.

A Palestinian man was killed after an attempted stabbing at a checkpoint just outside Jerusalem shortly after Trump had entered the Old City, according to Israeli police. 

Trump is expected on Tuesday to lay out his vision for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians in a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. He is also scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. 

The Palestinian prisoners committee called for a day of rage across the West Bank on Tuesday amid Trump's visit. The call includes closing down roads and clashing with Israeli soldiers at military checkpoints.

Dozens of Palestinians were injured while rallying across the West Bank on Monday in support of about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli detention on hunger strike for more than a month.

Trump is scheduled to continue on to Rome on Tuesday afternoon.

Trump, the first president since Jimmy Carter to first travel to a country besides Canada or Mexico, is being accompanied to Israel by his wife, Melania, as well as his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a key advisor to Trump.

Both Netanyahu and Abbas have separately visited Trump in Washington since he took office.

By Miranda Lee Murray

© 2019 dpa GmbH

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