US President Donald Trump’s nine-day, four-country, first foreign tour will take him to a Muslim-world summit in Riyadh, a visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall and a meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican. It is being billed as an interfaith itinerary that will include formal addresses by the president in all three countries.
Trump is set to become the first serving president to visit the Western Wall, and is coming to Israel earlier in his term than any other US president. He is also set to see PA President Mahmoud Abbas for the second time this month, as he works toward the Israeli-Palestinian deal he says he is confident in delivering. “I hope that this can happen quicker than anyone ever imagined,” he said in an interview published Friday.
The Israel (and West Bank) portion of his trip begins on Monday, May 22, when Air Force One will touch down at Ben Gurion Airport at about 12:25 p.m. (a little later than originally scheduled.) The US president will be received at a special ceremony on the tarmac, including speeches, then will be helicoptered to Jerusalem and his first meeting, a visit with President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem at 1:25 p.m.
From there, he make visits to holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (at 3.00) and the Western Wall (at 3:45) — an unprecedented stop at Judaism’s holiest place of prayer for a serving US president.
This part of the trip is being billed by the White House as a private religious visit intended for prayer and to promote interfaith coexistence. US officials have resisted Israeli requests to have Netanyahu join Trump for the Western Wall visit, though Trump in an interview published Friday seemed to leave open the possibility that Netanyahu could yet join him.
Next, he is expected at the King David Hotel — Trump’s entourage is taking up all six floors of the historic building — and a break. According to officials familiar with the trip, Trump’s planning team has intentionally worked downtime into the president’s schedule. Besides his age — at 70, he is the oldest first-term president in US history — Trump is known to dislike foreign travel and the frenetic pace of meetings and events that are the bane of any American president’s overseas trips.
At 6 p.m., he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That meeting will be followed by a 7:15 p.m. dinner at the Prime Minister’s Residence where Trump and Netanyahu will be joined by wives Melania and Sara.
Starting at 8 p.m., meanwhile, the president’s entourage will be hosted by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman at a formal dinner at the King David Hotel.
On Tuesday morning, Trump will head to Bethlehem at 10:00 a.m. for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He may visit the Church of the Nativity in the city.
The Israeli part of his visit then resumes with a 1 p.m. wreath-laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.
At 1.30 p.m. Trump is due to move on to deliver an address at the Israel Museum located across the street from the Knesset. This is set to be the main speech of his Israel trip; there was talk of him speaking at the Masada desert fortress in the Judaean desert, but that idea reportedly fell though when it was made clear that the presidential helicopter would not be allowed to land atop the UNESCO-listed site, and he’d have had to use the cable car.
Trump will then return to Ben Gurion Airport and lift off for Italy, and the Vatican leg of his trip, at 3:40 p.m.
Israel Police are engaged in intense preparations for the US leader’s arrival. The security operation, titled “Blue Shield,” will involve thousands of cops, Border Policemen, Shin Bet agents and volunteers.
On Thursday night police and the American Secret Service held a joint drill of security arrangements. A video of the exercise released by police (Hebrew) showed the exercise and general preparations.
Police said they would set up several operations centers along the president’s route, to enable effective control.
Trump and his robust entourage (said to number around one thousand people) will fill many of the city’s top hotels. The president himself will stay at the King David — a mainstay of such visits — in a suite with rocket-resistant glass windows.
Major traffic disruptions are expected in the capital throughout Monday and Tuesday. Police were advising residents to use public transportation, particularly the city’s light rail, and to check traffic updates on the Waze app.