Trump makes personal appeal for Mideast peace

The president landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport for a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories as part of his first trip overseas since taking office. He reiterated the Palestinians' demands, including establishing a capital in East Jerusalem, territory Israel claims as well, insisting that "our problem is not with the Jewish religion, it's with the occupation and settlements, and with Israel not recognizing the state of Palestine".

In the eyes of cynical Israelis, Trump, like Netanyahu in the past, is awarding himself the world title of Mr. Anti-Terror, this time against Iran.

The U.S. president arrived in Israel on Monday after a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, where Trump said King Salman assured him Riyadh wants peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. On the contrary, it will push it forward by correcting a historical injustice and ending the Palestinian narrative that says that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel. "He's still on a learning curve and peacemaking is not a business deal".

"We know that peace is possible if we put aside the pain and disagreements of the past and commit together to finally resolving this crisis which has dragged on for almost half a century", Trump added in his speech at the museum, shortly before departing Israel for Rome, adding that Israelis and Palestinians "can make a deal".

Trump initially sparked deep concern among Palestinians when he backed away from the long USA commitment to a two-state solution to the conflict.

The incident comes just days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was announced as the victor of the elections in which he sought a second term after campaigning on promises of domestic reform and further outreach to the worldwide community, in line with the 2015 nuclear agreement he had helped to secure during his first term. Quitting now would alienate US allies and could lead to precisely what the accord has successfully blocked: an Iranian race to build a bomb. The benefits would be two-fold; showing that Trump was not Islamophobic and strengthening previous sour relationships with United States allies.

During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to either "tear up" or renegotiate the agreement, though he has stepped back from that promise since taking office. The historic July 2015 nuclear deal closed all pathways to a nuclear weapon for Iran, whereas Israel remains the only obstacle to a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East.

Iran's newly reelected president, Hassan Rouhani, an architect of the nuclear deal and a moderate in Iranian politics, held out an olive branch of sorts.

For the White House this was job done. The rival factions split over who would lead Muslims after the Prophet Muhammad's death in the 7th century.

Trump, for his part, seemed to allude to the Palestinian Authority's payments to families of those prisoners when he said, "Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded". The militant group Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu had a frosty relationship with former U.S. President Barack Obama, but has lavished praise on Trump throughout his visit.




In introductory remarks, Netanyahu voiced hope that Trump's efforts would help forge peace with Arab states, which, he said, shared with Israel a common concern about Iran. "He has divided the Muslim world into good and evil, white and black. It's exactly the script the Saudis wanted, and it's the script Trump gave them".

Trump's strategic re-positioning in the region has two parts.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wave at the Israel museum in Jerusalem, Tuesday.

Second, Iran is too big and too important to ignore, they argue, especially because the easing of sanctions and Rouhani's reelection means it is reengaging with the outside world.

Hamas has said that Trump's labeling it as a terrorist organization demonstrates the American president can not be a fair broker for peace. "Excluding Iran only incentivizes Iran to destroy the process set up to exclude it". And that was before Trump brushed Netanyahu aside to tell the media that it was all okay because he never said the word "Israel" to the Russians - thus marking the first time a USA official had suggested in public that the sensitive material released came from Israel.

The visit follows an initial leg in Saudi Arabia, where he urged Islamic leaders to confront extremism.

Although the organization is primarily Sunni, several member nations have large Shiite populations, making the coalition's ability to coordinate actions an open question.

"I'm personally committed to helping Israelis and Palestinians achieve a peace agreement", Trump said. "It was practical assurance", Takeyh said.

"It was psychological assurance".

Times correspondent Joshua Mitnick contributed from Tel Aviv.

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