Israel, US eyeing Trump visit on May 22-23

President’s first official trip to take place immediately before Jerusalem Day, when Israel marks 50 years of city’s reunification

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Donald Trump speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, March 21, 2016. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)
Donald Trump speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, March 21, 2016. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images via JTA)

US President Donald Trump is to arrive in Israel for a whirlwind visit on the morning of May 22, and will leave in the early afternoon a day later, official sources in Jerusalem told The Times of Israel on Thursday.

The timing of his visit is significant, as it will be immediately before Israel celebrates Jerusalem Day, which begins on the evening of May 23.

Trump will only remain in Israel for a single night, and it is not yet known whether he will also visit the Palestinian Authority.

No previous US president has visited Israel in the first months of his term.

On Thursday a delegation of some 25 US officials landed in Israel to start planning what will be a key stop on Trump’s first trip overseas as president.

The officials held meetings at the Foreign Ministry, the President’s Residence and the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. On Friday, the delegation is scheduled to visit Jerusalem’s Old City, including the Western Wall, Masada and the Allenby border crossing with Jordan. However, members of the US delegation pointed out, in private conversations, that their destinations this week should not be viewed as a final indication that the president will also visit them next month.

By coming to Israel, Trump will be fulfilling a promise he made in December, before the elections, when he postponed a visit to the Jewish state.

At that time he tweeted, “I have decided to postpone my trip to Israel and to schedule my meeting with Netanyahu at a later date after I become President of the US.”

Trump will reportedly be accompanied by his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both among his closest advisers. His wife, Melania, is expected to remain in the US.

Trump will reportedly announce during the trip that he is to reverse longstanding US policy by officially recognizing the entire city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but will not implement his election campaign pledge to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper claimed in its front-page top story Thursday. There was no confirmation of this report.

This year’s Jerusalem Day marks the 50th anniversary of the reunification of the city, when Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War. While Israel regards the parts of Jerusalem captured in that conflict as part of Israel proper, the land is widely seen internationally as occupied.

Since Israel declared independence in 1948, US policy has been to not recognize any party as sovereign in any part of Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state.

The president will likely combine the trip with visits to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, key players in any moves to establish regional peace, Yedioth Ahronoth said.

Next week, Trump will host Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, as a prelude to a possible summit involving Abbas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leaders of the Sunni Arab world.

Trump’s visit will reportedly be followed by trips to the region by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations. The latter is reportedly set to come in June.

Trump’s visit so early in his presidency stands in marked contrast to his predecessor Barack Obama’s first trip to the Jewish state, which only took place during his second presidential term.

The new US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is due to arrive in Jerusalem on May 15 and to present his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin in June.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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