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Donald Trump in Israel: President speaks of "unbreakable bond" between US and allies

Tel Aviv: US president Donald Trump on Monday said that there is a "rare opportunity" to bring security and peace to the Middle East as he arrived in Israel from Saudi Arabia to reaffirm America's "unbreakable bond" with the nation.

"I have found new reasons for hope," said Trump upon arriving at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

"There is a rare opportunity to bring security and peace to the region, but we can only get there by working together," said Trump who arrived here from Riyadh in what is believed to be the first direct flight between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Trump went on to say that he met with leaders from across the Arab world in Saudi Arabia and reached "historic agreements" in the fight against terror.

"On my first trip overseas as President, I have come to this sacred and ancient land to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between US and Israel," Trump said during a welcome ceremony at the airport.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Trump on what he called a "truly historic" visit, which he viewed as a "powerful expression of your friendship".

Netanyahu applauded Trump's call for nations to do more to fight terrorism during his visit to Saudi Arabia.

"Israel shares the commitment to peace that you made yesterday. The peace we seek is genuine and durable, in which the Jewish state is recognised, security remains in Israel’s hands, and the conflict ends once and for all," he said.

"I hope this trip is a step on the path toward reconciliation and peace," he stressed.

US president Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk during welcome ceremony in Tel Aviv, Israel. AP

US president Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk during welcome ceremony in Tel Aviv, Israel. AP

The Israeli leader also noted that it was the first time that a US President has chosen to come to Israel during his first foreign trip after taking charge.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin thanked Trump for his "commitment to Israel's ability to face the threats of today and of tomorrow".

The Israeli president emphasised that while the world, the Middle East, and Israel all need a strong United States, "the United States also needs a strong Israel".

"In the Middle East, an area that suffers from terrorism and madness, the alliance between the United States and Israel shines like a beacon of liberty and progress," Rivlin said.

Trump left for Jerusalem immediately after the welcome ceremony for his meeting with Rivlin at the President's House amid heightened security with all the major roads in Jerusalem completely gridlocked.

The US president is scheduled to meet with the Israeli Prime Minister this evening and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday.

He has called an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement "the ultimate deal", but has been vague about what form it should take.

At a summit in Riyadh on Sunday, Trump called on Arab and Muslim leaders to take the lead in combating Islamist militants, urging them to "drive them out of this earth".

Pointing at Iran-Israel and Saudi Arabia's main foe in the region, the US President accused Tehran of fueling the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.

The US President has been widely seen as considerably more supportive of Israel than his predecessor Barack Obama.

He has taken a softer position on the contentious issue of Israeli settlements, suggesting that their expansion rather than their presence might hamper the search for peace.

During his election campaign, Trump had expressed views that seemed to fit neatly with those of the right-wing Israeli government of Netanyahu favouring expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and a tough line towards Palestinian aspirations for independence.

However, after taking charge of Presidency his statements have been rather nuanced on the issue of settlements as well as regarding moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, causing some heartburn among his right-wing supporters here.

Trump is expected to visit the Western Wall, located in the Old City of East Jerusalem, later today in a private capacity in what would be the first such visit to Judaism's holiest site by a sitting US President.

He will also visit the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre where according to Christian tradition Jesus was buried and resurrected.


Published Date: May 22, 2017 18:50 PM | Updated Date: May 22, 2017 18:50 PM

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