Trump In Israel, A Test Of The Art Of The Deal

Mr. Netanyahu repeated his longstanding position that he “shares the commitment to peace” but with the same conditions as always. “Israel’s hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors, including the Palestinians,” he said. “The peace we seek is a genuine and durable one, in which the Israeli state is recognized, security remains in Israel’s hands, and the conflict ends once and for all.”

No previous American president has come to Israel this early in his tenure. Bill Clinton visited in his second year in office and Jimmy Carter in his third, while Richard M. Nixon, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all waited until their second terms to make the trip. American flags flew in Jerusalem, and Jewish and Christian holy sites prepared to host Mr. Trump, his wife, his daughter and his son-in-law.

But there were clashes in the West Bank as Mr. Trump arrived. More than 1,000 Palestinians marched to the Qalandiya checkpoint from Ramallah, carrying posters of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons. Some carried pictures of Mr. Trump’s face with a red shoe print that read, in Arabic: “American policies are a footprint of shame on humanity’s forehead. Trump’s visit is a sale of disillusionment and a station to bypass Palestinian rights.”

When the demonstration reached the checkpoint, Israeli soldiers began firing tear-gas canisters, rubber bullets and live ammunition and about 50 Palestinian youths clashed with the soldiers.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson told reporters aboard Air Force One that he saw an opening to succeed where multiple presidents have failed.

“We have the opportunity to advance the peace discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he said. “I think the president has indicated he’s willing to put his own personal efforts into this if the Israelis and the Palestinian leadership are ready to be serious about engaging, as well.”

But a visit that was once anticipated as a powerful expression of solidarity between two like-minded leaders, Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu, has become more complicated amid a series of logistical and political stress points.

Although Mr. Trump presented himself during last year’s campaign as the staunchest ally Israel could hope for in the White House, since taking office, he has backed away from some of his promises and adopted an approach closer to that of his predecessors.

Israelis had expected the United States to have announced by now plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, as Mr. Trump had vowed to do “quickly.” But the American president has postponed that promise because of fears that it could provoke a backlash among Palestinians and their Arab allies, complicating peace negotiations. Mr. Trump’s full-throated defense of Israeli settlements has also evolved into a request that Mr. Netanyahu delay new projects.

The days leading up to Mr. Trump’s arrival underscored the potential for friction. Mr. Trump disclosed to Russia’s foreign minister and its ambassador to Washington last week sensitive information about an Islamic State plot that had originally come from Israel, potentially jeopardizing the Israeli intelligence source. American officials also declined to invite Mr. Netanyahu to accompany Mr. Trump to the Western Wall and would not say that the sacred site was part of Israel, actions that made many Israelis bristle.

A visit to the ancient desert fortress of Masada was canceled over the question of whether a helicopter could land at the top of the site, and Mr. Trump’s team wanted only a brief stop at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum, which offended some Israelis.

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