Netanyahu seeking to speak at Masada alongside Trump
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Netanyahu seeking to speak at Masada alongside Trump

Hebrew media reports say US preparatory team hesitant to agree to proposal for joint address at desert fortress

Aerial view of Masada (Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA)
Aerial view of Masada (Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking to deliver a speech at Masada together with US President Donald Trump during the latter’s upcoming visit to Israel, a senior official in Jerusalem said on Monday.

However, the American delegation organizing Trump’s visit has expressed reservations about the idea, according to Hebrew media reports.

It is unclear whether Netanyahu would speak before or after the president.

The Walla news site reported that the Prime Minister’s Office requested that Netanyahu give a speech of five to seven minutes alongside the US president. The prime minister is currently set give a few short remarks introducing Trump at the Judean Desert fortress, according to Walla.

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, February 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, February 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Trump will be in Israel between May 22-23.

While the speech at Masada will likely be the centerpiece of his stay, Trump will also reportedly visit the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, which would make him the first incumbent US president to do so.

Trump will also reportedly visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum, as well as meet with Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

Last week, Trump told the Israel Hayom daily that during his visit to Israel he will “discuss a range of regional issues of mutual concern” with Netanyahu.

“We will discuss a range of regional issues of mutual concern, including the need to counter the threats posed by Iran and its proxies, and by ISIS and by other terrorist groups. We will also discuss ways to advance a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he said.

Trump’s visit comes amid efforts by the US president to renew long-dormant peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

The president, who has referred to an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement as “the ultimate deal,” said earlier thos month, when hosting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, that he would be willing to play whatever role was needed to strike an accord.

It is not clear if Trump will use his trip to the region to unveil specific plans concerning peace talks, but the timing of the visit — coinciding with Jerusalem Day, when Israel will celebrate 50 years since capturing the east of the city during the 1967 Six Day War — has sparked speculation that he might use the trip make a major announcement regarding the city.

Over the course of his campaign, Trump repeatedly promised he would move the embassy, but since assuming office, he has seemingly stepped away from that pledge.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Trump is assessing whether moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would help or hurt prospects for clinching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal

“The president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact a peace process,” Tillerson said in an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He said Trump’s decision would be informed by feedback from all sides, “most certainly” including “whether Israel views it as helpful to a peace initiative or perhaps a distraction.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington DC on February 15, 2017. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington DC on February 15, 2017. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Following Tillerson’s remarks, Netanyahu responded that the move would advance peace efforts.

“Israel’s position has been stated many times to the US government and to the world,” Netanyahu said. “Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem will not only not harm the peace process, it will advance it by correcting a historical wrong and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel.”

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.

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