Israel lays on 10,000 extra police during Trump visit as Palestinian factions threaten 'day of rage'

US delegation brings its own bullet and bomb-proof glass to ensure president’s safety during his first trip to Israel and the West Bank 

Wednesday 24 May 2017 14:22 BST
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Donald Trump said he has found 'new reasons for hope' for peace in the Middle East on his debut foreign trip
Donald Trump said he has found 'new reasons for hope' for peace in the Middle East on his debut foreign trip

US President Donald Trump has arrived in Israel for the second leg of his maiden foreign trip in search of Middle Eastern peace - a goal he has described as the “ultimate deal.”

Arriving from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Monday, the president also said he saw a growing consensus among Muslim-majority nations that they share a “common cause” with Israel in fighting both Islamic extremism and Iranian influence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and dozens more members of the coalition government greeted Mr Trump in a short ceremony as Air Force One landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport at lunchtime on Monday.

Trump tells Middle East need to 'drive out' terrorism on their own

A helicopter then delivered the visiting president to Jerusalem, where he met with President Reuven Rivlin, visiting both the Western Wall – one of Judaism's holiest sites – and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be where Jesus's tomb is located. Mr Trump, who is the first sitting US President to visit the site, placed a note inside a hole in the Western Wall, as is customary for visitors.

The official US visit has been met with extensive security arrangements following calls from some Palestinian factions for a "day of rage"; more than 10,000 extra police and counter-terrorism officers were deployed for Mr Trump’s two-night stay.

The visiting president’s 1,000-person-strong entourage also includes a large security detail.

The message should be sent that “the Palestinian people insist on their right to self-determination and national independence with east Jerusalem as its sovereign capital,” a statement from the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces read, calling the US' support for the Israeli occupation of the West Bank "unacceptable."

The east of Jerusalem was annexed by Israel along with parts of the West Bank in 1967 in a move which was never officially recognised by the international community. Both sides in the Israeli-Arab conflict claim the holy city as their capital.

The entire US delegation is staying at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where Mr Trump, his wife Melania, and Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu will have a private dinner on Monday evening.

The President’s suite has been fitted out with bullet-proof glass and other measures by US security services to make it bomb, blast and gas proof, NBC reported on Sunday, and his food will be tested for poison.

Mr Trump is scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on Tuesday before laying a wreath at the Holocaust Remembrance Centre and delivering a speech at the National Museum of Israel.

Mr Trump is widely viewed in Israel and the wider Middle East as far more sympathetic to Israeli interests than his predecessor Barack Obama.

Despite his pro-Israeli campaign trail rhetoric, since entering the White House Mr Trump has caught some Israeli hard-liners off guard with the suggestion the government should “hold back” on settlement building, and his administration has equivocated over whether the US embassy will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as promised.

He has, however, repeatedly emphasised his sincere desire to broker a peace deal in the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, putting his son-in-law Jared Kushner in charge of such efforts.

“We must work together to build a future where the nations of the region are at peace and all of our children can grow, grow up strong and free from terrorism and violence,” Mr Trump said on his arrival on Monday.

“During my travels in recent days, I have found new reasons for hope.”

White House aides have downplayed hopes any significant progress on reviving long-stalled peace talks can be made, describing the president's first trip as "symbolic".

Donald Trump becomes first sitting US President to visit Western Wall

The President flew to Tel Aviv after two days in Riyadh, where he and Saudi Arabian leaders pledged strong ties, greater cooperation in fighting “Islamist terrorism” and finalised a $110 billion (£85 million) arms deal.

The weapons deal - which rights campaigners fear will fuel the conflict in Yemen - could open Mr Trump to questions from Israeli officials.

Last week's revelations the president shared classified Israeli information with Russian visitors to the White House is another point of contention, although speaking on board Air Force One, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters he wasn't sure that Mr Trump had "anything to apologise for".

During a press conference with Mr Netanyahu, Mr Trump seemed to hint that Israel was the source of the intelligence, telling reporters he never mentioned "the word of the name 'Israel'" during the visit by Russian diplomats.

When Mr Netanyahu was asked if he had any concerns about intelligence cooperation with the US, the prime minister responded: “Intelligence cooperation is terrific. It's never been better.”

The next stops on the president's first trip abroad since taking office in January are the Vatican, Brussels, and a G7 summit in Italy.

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