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Trump Makes Stop in Israel and Palestine, Criticized Iran


Al-Hindi denounced the leaders - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas among them - for their silence to Trump's message, particularly as the U.S. president famously hinged his presidential campaign on inflammatory, anti-Muslim rhetoric. There was none of the usual talk of borders, of settlements, of incitement of terrorism or of the long and gnarled history of two people on the same land.

Israel seized east Jerusalem during the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the worldwide community. Nor was there a process for what comes next.

"The Temple Mount and Western Wall will remain forever under Israeli sovereignty", Netanyahu told lawmakers, just two days after President Donald Trump visited the wall.

To arm Saudi Arabia so it can resist the Iranian threats, Trump has signed an arms deal with the kingdom worth $110 billion dollars - but giving frenemy Saudi Arabia that much firepower leaves Israel uncomfortable. Trump seemed to accomplish all of this, most experts here agreed, with few of the missteps that have dogged him at home. The Trump Administration is said to be trying to put together a "common set of principles" from which everyone can negotiate. I see it as Israel's salvation.

That prompted a standing ovation, and Netanyahu to shake his hand. He noted that Washington still depends on Iran for cooperation in Iraq against I.S. and in Afghanistan against the Taliban, and Trump has "shown caution so far". Instead of saying thank you to the United States, they now feel emboldened. "I am telling you that, that's what I do", Trump told the suddenly quiet audience in Jerusalem.

And though the trip was largely focused on Israel, Abbas, struggling to maintain sway after years in power, got at least some of what he wanted as he hosted Trump in Bethlehem as a seeming equal. The only reason that sudden moves on Jerusalem matter is because they prejudice the final outcome of negotiations over the capital of a future Palestinian state. Speaking on Israeli television, Yuval Steineitz, Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources, praised Trump's promises but added soberly, "We will have to sit with the Americans to ensure that in any eventuality, Israel will maintain its military superiority".

Hamas has said that Trump's labeling it as a terrorist organization demonstrates the American president can not be a fair broker for peace. He says Israel already has some limited partnerships with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States in the field of intelligence, although officially they have no diplomatic relations.

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"Is anything behind all of this? He's the Liberace of world leaders". He also noted that Iran Air, in Tehran's first deal with a USA aviation group since the 1979 Islamic revolution, finalized in December a contract worth $16.6 billion to purchase 80 Boeing planes.

Trump's speech came soon after he visited Yad Vashem.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said Trump had "succeeded in bringing peace, which in recent years had become a dirty word, back to the center of Israeli public and political discourse". "He wants peace", he said. He visited the Palestinian Territories and Israel before flying to Rome where he meets Pope Francis and Italian leaders. "He's still on a learning curve, and peacemaking is not a business deal". "It's still in the realm of generalizations rather than a specific strategy or approach", said Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Hasni Abidi, head of the Geneva-based Study and Research Center for the Arab and Mediterranean World (CERNAM), also spoke of a "break in US policy".

The President also notably avoided all of the thorny issues that have stymied peace efforts for decades.

If there is any substance, secrecy may be all the more essential for Netanyahu because most of his current Cabinet members oppose any far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians or the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Trump reiterated that he is personally committed to helping Israel and the Palestinians reach a peace agreement, and that - after meeting with Abbas earlier in the day - he could say the "Palestinians are ready to reach peace".

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