A leading Arabic daily on Saturday claimed the Trump administration has declined an Israeli proposal to delay the US president’s first visit to the region until June when the Jewish states celebrates the 50th anniversary of its historic victories in the Six Day War. There was no confirmation of the report.
According to the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper, Israel suggested that Donald Trump, who is scheduled to visit on May 22 after first going to Saudi Arabia, delay the trip by several days to coincide with the anniversary.
However, the Trump administration refused for two reasons, Al-Hayat said, citing Western sources.
With Trump looking to broker a Mideast peace deal, he does not want to appear too biased in favor of Israel, which could be implied if he were here to mark Israel’s 1967 victories over the Arab armies, the report said.
The later date was also technically difficult because Trump has tied his first overseas visit to the NATO and G7 summits in Brussels and Sicily later this month, Al-Hayat said.
The Six Day War was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967 and saw Israel capture East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.
It’s not immediately clear why Israel would have suggested that Trump delay his trip and there has been no official confirmation of any such suggestion.
In any case, Trump will be in Israel just a day before the Jewish state celebrates the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in that war, which this year falls on the eve of May 23 according to the Hebrew calendar.
This has already sparked speculation that he might use the trip make a major announcement regarding the holy city, which is even more sensitive in the Arab world.
Over the course of his campaign, Trump repeatedly promised he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but since assuming office, he has seemingly stepped away from that pledge amid warnings from the Muslim world.
Trump will have to make an important decision on the matter.
Congress passed a law in 1995 mandating the embassy be moved to Jerusalem, but it allowed the president to exercise a six-month waiver on national security grounds.
Every president since, including Barack Obama’s predecessors George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, signed that waiver every six months.
The last one, signed in December by Obama, expires at the end of May, when Trump will be forced to either sign it or follow through on his campaign promise.
But given that Trump said he wants to reset his often-frosty relations with the Muslim world, he seems unlikely to want to antagonize them with a Jerusalem declaration.
Trump said he “will begin [the foreign trip] with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world,” and noted: “Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam.”
In markedly conciliatory language, he added: “It is there we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries.”