Under Trump, daylight re-emerges in US-Israel relationship

18 May, 2017, 01:16 | Author: Essie Rivera

The controversy erupted as Israel's right-wing government becomes increasingly nervous about Trump's inexperience and unique personality, his new peace push and his backing away from a campaign pledge to move the USA embassy to Jerusalem.

Many Israelis expected the Trump visit would bolster Israel's position on Jerusalem and the peace talks.

Since his inauguration, Trump has faced a flood of warnings from top Arab diplomats and a personal appeal from Jordan's King Abdullah to not move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Such a move would implicitly recognise the disputed holy city as the capital of Israel and be likely to end the prospects of a peace deal with the Palestinians, who regard east...

The report led Netanyahu to issue an angry rebuttal.

"Israel is convinced that this statement is contrary to the position of President [Donald] Trump, as expressed in his firm opposition to the most recent UN Security Council Resolution", the Israeli Prime Minister's Office said in a written statement Monday. The analysis in Ramallah is that the Trump administration has chose to explore the possibility of starting a peace process in the months to come.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman kisses the stones of the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem's Old City, Monday, May 15, 2017.

Separately, Israeli officials reacted angrily to reports in local media that representatives of the USA consulate had suggested the Western Wall in east Jerusalem did not belong to Israel.

This American government official's statement allegedly caused a storm among the Israeli trip organizing staff. Channel 2 News reported that intense shouting and protests could be heard from the room. The Palestinians assume that Trump will leave the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, but may offer recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

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Top officials at the State Department, Department of Defense and the U.S. intelligence community are urging the White House not to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, warning that such a decision would be harmful to the peace process and carry broader regional risks, a senior administration official and several USA officials told CNN.

The trip will also be colored by questions over the status of the US Embassy in Israel, which Trump promised to move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during his campaign.

Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act in 1995, which called on the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move its embassy there.

Among the main bones of contention are Netanyahu insisting that the Palestinians recognise Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and the Palestinians calling for a halt to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

A bankruptcy lawyer by profession, Friedman has no previous diplomatic experience.

"So the problem is obviously not moving the embassy to Jerusalem".

Friedman arrived Monday and immediately visited the Western Wall, praying there and kissing the sacred site.

Trump drew worldwide criticism in February when, during a news conference with Netanyahu, he appeared to back away from a US commitment to Palestinian statehood, saying he would leave it up to the parties to decide.

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