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Mixed Feelings in Israel Greeted President Trump

By Madison Dudley | The Media Line

May 22, 2017

US President Donald Trump and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the President's House on May 22, 2017 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Many are more focused on traffic interruptions

[Jerusalem] Israeli and American flags have been hanging side-by-side for several days on the highways and street corners around Jerusalem in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s visit to the region – the first American Commander-in-Chief to include the state of Israel his first time out. Observers are looking for indications of what the US-Israel might look like for the next four to eight years.

As he descended the staircase from Air Force One to the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport to the cadre of ebullient faces anxious to remind the new president of the nation’s respect and gratitude for his embrace during the presidential campaign while perhaps offering a hopeful nudge in that direction following a series of about-faces that leave many wondering whether the promised turnaround in relationship between Washington and Jerusalem is, indeed, for real.

“I think they (Israelis) are reserving their judgment,” Hebrew University in Jerusalem Prof. Peter Medding told The Media Line. “They haven’t had enough experience.”

Trump ran for president under a fiercely pro-Israel message, offering promises and opinions seemingly copied from the Israeli political wish list, including a vow to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to acknowledge Israeli sovereignty over the capital, Jerusalem. Trump was celebrated as a savior by Israel’s political right and it was not uncommon to spot a “Make American Great Again” hat when walking in the streets of Jerusalem.

But since his inauguration, Trump’s policies toward Israel have been indistinguishable from center-to-left, taking a more traditional approach to Israel, being persistent when it comes to his stance on stopping the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the brokering of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. “I think that if he is chosen by the US nation then we must give him a chance,” eighteen-year-old Edo Shapiro Israel told The Media Line.

Last week, US-Israel intelligence sharing suffered a blow after reports surfaced that President Trump had passed classified Israeli intelligence information regarding Syria to the Russian government. Referring to the incident, Prof. Medding said, “I think people are probably puzzled,” but suggested that it’s difficult to gauge the views of the whole population. Still, the right-wing Israeli government is confident of Trump’s support following eight years of non-stop tension in its dealings with the Obama administration.

Since President Trump’s election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown strong support for him.

“As far as what our politicians think, yeah, he’ll take care of us,” 27-year-old Tom Kadar told The Media Line. Kadar is skeptical that Trump will be able to help stabilize the Middle East or help broker a solution to the Arab-Israel conflict. “I don’t think peace is what he’s all about,” Kadar said, “He’ll be a part of some sort of solution but I’m not sure what that solution will be.”

“My opinions of President Trump are maybe he has the means and the heart to do what’s best for Israel but he’s a celebrity first and not a politician,” said 30-year-old Heather Nicole. Originally from the United States, she is in Israel as a part of an internship program. Nicole has lived in Israel for almost a year and plans on immigrating. She was not in the United States during the Presidential election and did not vote. “I hope his presidency will have a positive effect on Israel, but I think it will just keep it the same I don’t think it will change,” Nicole told The Media Line.
Others are afraid Trump will cause more harm than good. Jonah Brenner is in the process of moving to Israel full-time from the United States, and he sees Trump as being easily manipulated by regional powers.

Trump will be on the ground in the region for less than 24 hours. During his short trip, Trump visited with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, toured the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Western Wall.

On Tuesday, President Trump travels to the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and to visit the Church of the Nativity. He returns to Jerusalem to lay a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and view the Israel Museum before departing for Rome where he meets.

Trump’s trip to Israel follows a quick stop in Saudi Arabia and will end with time at the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis, before winding up his journey in Brussels where he’ll meet with European Union and NATO officials.

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