Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Thursday with Donald Trump’s Special Envoy for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, to fine-tune plans for next week’s visit to the region by the US president.
They were joined by new US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer as they sought to sidestep controversies that have plagued the run-up to the visit.
Trump is set to hold talks with Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin and also with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. However, a senior Israeli official confirmed that a trilateral meeting between Trump, Netanyahu and Abbas is not on the agenda.
Trump’s two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority will include an unprecedented visit by a serving US president to Judaism’s holiest point of prayer, the Western Wall, a stop at the Old City’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a speech at the Israel Museum and the laying of a wreath at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum. There was talk of a speech at the Masada ancient fortress in the Judaean Desert, but this was reportedly scrapped when Israeli officials made clear that the president would not be permitted to land by helicopter atop the UNESCO-listed site.
Trump is also set to visit Bethlehem in the West Bank, where he will meet with Abbas.
In Israel, frenetic preparations were underway to prepare for the visit, particularly the massive security operation, with more than 4,000 policemen drafted for the operation.
Trump is expected to arrive in Jerusalem on Monday in a nine-helicopter cavalcade, landing at a specially prepared landing pad near the King David Hotel where he will be staying.
Jerusalem police chief Yoram Halevy said the operation was especially complex as the visit coincided with a week of celebrations to mark Jerusalem Day that falls on Wednesday eve. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan also starts next Friday.
Police also highlighted Trump’s Tuesday visit to the two holy sites in the Old City with its narrow winding alleyways. The normally bustling Jaffa Gate area will be “sterilized,” Halevy said, so the president can enter the Old City there.
Meanwhile, a red carpet and US flags were being laid out at the residence of President Reuven Rivlin, whom Trump is due to visit on Monday. Workmen busily erected press stages and media equipment.
Gardeners planted flowers in the Presidential Garden along with a new almond tree, in honor of the president, with a plaque inscribed with the quotation, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may they prosper that love thee. Peace be in thy walls, and prosperity in thy palaces” (Psalm 122).
Likewise, a red carpet and honor guard were preparing for the arrival of Air Force at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Jerusalemites — used to the chaos caused by visiting dignitaries — were trying to make contingency plans for extensive road closures due to start noon on Monday.
Numerous business people were concerned after receiving requests from police and the foreign ministry to close down from Sunday — one day before Trump’s arrival — to relieve traffic pressure and make way for the president’s retinue, Channel 10 News reported Tuesday.
Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Meir Tourjeman told Channel 10 that the request for businesses to close was “problematic.”
The Shin Bet internal security service responded that a “limited number of businesses” would experience changes to their hours.
Trump will leave the region on Tuesday, heading to the Vatican.