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'You have a great opportunity right now'

Trump in Israel says Saudi king left him encouraged over peace prospects

Meeting with Israeli counterpart Rivlin, US president vows Iran will ‘never, ever’ obtain nuclear weapons, touts growing Arab willingness to work with Israel against Tehran

US President Donald Trump (L) and President Reuven Rivlin speak during a press conference at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump (L) and President Reuven Rivlin speak during a press conference at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

US President Donald Trump declared that his trip to Saudi Arabia left him encouraged about the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as he kicked off a whirlwind tour of the Holy Land on Monday.

Meeting with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, Trump also said the US would ensure Iran “never, ever” obtains nuclear weapons, while demanding the Islamic Republic stop arming terror groups “immediately.”

Trump landed in Israel from a three-day trip to Saudi Arabia earlier Monday, where he is expected to meet with leaders and explore the chances for restarting peace talks.

The US president said he was “deeply encouraged” by his visit to Saudi Arabia and talks with Arab leaders about the prospects of a deal being reached.

US President Donald Trump meets with President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)
US President Donald Trump meets with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

King Salman, Trump said, would “love to see peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

“Many [Muslim leaders] expressed their resolve to help end terrorism and the spread of radicalization. There’s a growing realization among your Arab neighbors that they have common cause with you on this threat posed by Iran — and it is a threat, make no mistake about that,” he said.

The comments followed a closed-door meeting with Rivlin, Trump’s first official sit-down with Israeli leaders during his whirlwind 28-hour tour of the Holy Land that kicked off earlier Monday afternoon. Just before that closed door session, Trump told Rivlin, “You have a great opportunity right now” for peace with the Arab world.

Echoing comments from a day earlier in which he lambasted Iran, Trump vowed to ensure that Tehran never be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.

“The United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran can never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon. Never, ever,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Rivlin.

Iran “must cease its training and funding of terror groups and militias, and must cease immediately,” the US president added.

Hailing Israel as “an amazing, amazing country” whose alliance with the United States “will always be enduring,” Trump said he was looking forward to discussing the peace process with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Young Israeli and Palestinian children deserve to grow up in safety, free of the violence that has destroyed so many lives,” he said.

In his opening remarks, Rivlin called for “new ideas” to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

First Lady Melania Trump and President Reuven Rivlin (R) stand next to US President Donald Trump as he signs the guest book at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)
First Lady Melania Trump and President Reuven Rivlin (R) stand next to US President Donald Trump as he signs the guest book at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on May 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

 

“Our destiny — Palestinians and Jews — is to live together in this land, Mr. President. We must build trust and cooperation between us,” Rivlin said at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, the first stop of Trump’s two-day visit. “But in order to achieve this we need new ideas, new energy, that will help us move forward, together.”

If Arabs and Israelis reach a peace agreement, the region could become an “oasis, an international center of tourism, a startup land, Silicon Valley from the Jordan to the Mediterranean,” Rivlin added. “But we must be sure that we don’t go to sleep with a dream and wake up with a nightmare: With Iran, ISIS and Hamas on our borders. In order to dream, we need to be sure that Iran is out; out of our borders, out of Syria, out of Lebanon.”

Trump landed at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv shortly after noon Monday, where he was greeted with a state ceremony attended by Rivlin, Netanyahu and most other government ministers.

From the President’s Residence, Trump left for the Old City of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall, becoming the first sitting US president to ever visit Judaism’s holiest prayer site.

Later Monday, Trump will meet with Netanyahu at the King David Hotel and then dine with him at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US President Donald Trump speak upon the latter's arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport on May 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US President Donald Trump speak upon the latter’s arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport on May 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

On Tuesday, Trump will visit the West Bank city of Bethlehem in order to meet with Abbas before visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem and the Israel Museum, where he is scheduled to give the central speech of his visit before taking off for the Vatican.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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