Speculation Rife Over Trump Israel Visit and Peace Plans for Region
Since the announcement of President Donald Trump’s plans to visit Israel, speculation has been rife over the new chief executive’s plans to do what all of his predecessors failed to do: make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Witness the president’s statement to the Reuters news agency, strongly reminiscent of former Secretary of State John Kerry’s belief when he ascended to the role of top diplomat for the Obama administration, that “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians – none whatsoever.” But unlike his immediate predecessor, President Trump has the region on edge over the possibility that he will move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: a wonderful idea to the pro-Israel right-wing community and a remarkably bad – read reckless – idea to almost everyone else. When Reuters asked President Trump about rumors that he would announce the move during his visit, the reply was, “Ask me in a month.” Promises to make the embassy move a first-day-in-office item had evaporated by the time Trump took the oath of office. Yet, in the early days of his presidency, the Middle East arguably was the sole area of policy not under endless attack by the anti-Trump forces after the president surprised Israeli leaders with “suggestions” that undercut what its political right wing had believed during the campaign would become indistinguishable Washington-Jerusalem policy. Now, as the Israel visit takes shape, its timing and itinerary will say much about overall policy. But regarding the embassy move: most of the Israeli officials who have ventured a guess believe that by the end of May Donald Trump will join presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama when he does for the first time what he will do every six months hence: sign a waiver certifying that it is in the security interest of the United States not to move the embassy as the 1995 law requires.