Trump: Israelis and Arabs share 'common cause' against Iran

Posted: Updated:

By JONATHAN LEMIRE and JULIE PACE
The Associated Press

JERUSALEM - President Donald Trump declared Monday opened his first visit to Israel Monday, saying he sees growing recognition among Muslim nations that they share a "common cause" with Israel in their determination to counter the threats posed by Iran.

Arriving directly from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Trump expressed his hope for cooperation among U.S. allies in the Middle East. His second stop on the nine-day tour aimed to test the waters for reviving the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Trump, who had previously suggested that it would be easier than anticipated to solve the conflict that has vexed his predecessors for decades, said that conditions were right in both Israel and the Arab world to strike what he has called "the ultimate deal."

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

Trump's first stop was a meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. In a statement following the meeting, Trump addressed his meetings the previous day with Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, and said that there is growing realization that they share a "common cause with you" in their determination to defeat extremism and deter "the threat posed by Iran."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Trump "a true friend" to Israel and expressed optimism about the president's role in the Middle East peace process. But obstacles have emerged that may complicate the relationship between the White House and the Knesset.

Trump, wearing a yarmulke, on Monday became the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall. Trump touched it in prayer and, adhering to tradition, placed a note in a deep crevice. He also toured the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is believed to be where Jesus was crucified and the location of his tomb. On Tuesday, he is set to meet with Abbas in the West Bank and deliver a speech at the Israeli Museum.

But Trump may face concerns from Israelis over the new $110 billion arms deal he announced during his previous stop in Saudi Arabia as well as questions from Israeli officials about revelations that he disclosed sensitive Israeli intelligence to Russian officials. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking to reporters onboard Air Force One, said the U.S. could provide clarifications to Israel about the disclosure but said, "I don't know that there's anything to apologize for."

White House aides have also tried to play down expectations for significant progress on the peace process during Trump's stop, casting the visit as symbolic. Tillerson referred to the visit as "a moment in time" and suggested that the U.S. would take a more active role in the future in brokering a deal if both sides make serious commitments.

Trump, whose unorthodox approach has spurred some hope on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has done no such managing of expectations. He boldly stated that achieving peace is "something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years." in March during a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"But we need two willing parties," he said then. "We believe Israel is willing. We believe you're willing. And if you both are willing, we're going to make a deal."

And Trump made one symbolic gesture Monday in bridging the gap between Israel and the Arab world. His flight on Air Force One was believed to be the first direct flight between Saudi Arabia and Israel, nations that have limited diplomatic relations. Even the White House press corps making the trip on a separate plane from Riyadh to Tel Aviv had to make a technical stop in Cyprus before proceeding to Israel.

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

Gulf Arab countries long have been suspicious about Iran, whether that's the United Arab Emirates' long-running dispute over Iran seizing several Persian Gulf islands from it in 1971 to Bahrain's simmering anger over a 1981 coup attempt it blamed on the newly formed Islamic Republic.

The Obama administration's nuclear negotiations further fueled Gulf nations' worries about Iran's regional intentions, especially as it backs Shiite militias fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and supported the government of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad that many had opposed through supporting rebel groups there.

Trump is seeking to ease concerns that his policies wouldn't be as beneficial to Israel as once believed. He has taken a tougher line on settlements than Israeli officials had believed, urging restraint but though not calling for a full halt to construction. Trump has also retreated from a campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, bending to the same diplomatic and security concerns as other presidents who have made similar promises.

Palestinians, who viewed Trump's victory with some trepidation, are said to have been pleasantly surprised by Trump's openness during a recent meeting with Abbas in Washington.

And on the eve of Trump's visit, an Israeli official said Netanyahu's cabinet has approved confidence building measures with the Palestinians, including allowing building in a West Bank area. The official briefed on Sunday's meeting said the package includes building permits for Palestinians in Area C that has largely been off limits to Palestinian development until now. He spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal government announcement. He did not elaborate and it is not clear how big the plan is.

One point of contention in the talks: the fate of east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. The area is home to sensitive religious sites, including the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray.

Israel considers the entire city to be its capital while the international community says the future of east Jerusalem, claimed by the Palestinians, must be resolved through negotiations. The Trump administration drew the ire of some Israelis this week when officials declined to state that the Western Wall was part of Israel, as has been U.S. policy.

And while Netanyahu in the past has expressed support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, he has been vague about this goal since Trump gained power.

___

Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem, Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Darlene Superville, Vivian Salama and Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JonLemire and Pace at http://twitter.com/JPaceDC

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
 

  • PoliticsMore>>

  • Oyster Bay supervisor candidates argue in public

    Oyster Bay supervisor candidates argue in public

    Monday, June 26 2017 10:17 PM EDT2017-06-27 02:17:17 GMT
    A planned news conference in Oyster Bay devolved into a shouting match between the town supervisor and his challenger in November's upcoming election.A planned news conference in Oyster Bay devolved into a shouting match between the town supervisor and his challenger in November's upcoming election.

    A planned news conference in Oyster Bay devolved into a shouting match between the town supervisor and his challenger in November's upcoming election. 

    A planned news conference in Oyster Bay devolved into a shouting match between the town supervisor and his challenger in November's upcoming election. 

  • Trump travel ban partly reinstated; fall court arguments set

    Trump travel ban partly reinstated; fall court arguments set

    Monday, June 26 2017 5:57 PM EDT2017-06-26 21:57:27 GMT

    The Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to go forward with a limited version of its ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries, a victory for President Donald Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his young presidency.

    The Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to go forward with a limited version of its ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries, a victory for President Donald Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his young presidency.

  • Nassau presiding officer wants DA off Solages probe

    Nassau presiding officer wants DA off Solages probe

    Friday, June 23 2017 10:14 PM EDT2017-06-24 02:14:31 GMT
    Normal Gonsalves, a Republican and the presiding officer, wants a special prosecutor to handle the case.Normal Gonsalves, a Republican and the presiding officer, wants a special prosecutor to handle the case.

    The Nassau County Legislature's presiding officer is asking District Attorney Madeline Singas to recuse herself from the investigation into a legislator's assault charges. 

    The Nassau County Legislature's presiding officer is asking District Attorney Madeline Singas to recuse herself from the investigation into a legislator's assault charges. 

sorry to interrupt
your first 5 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 5 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 5 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login, create an account or subscribe to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."