Five Things To Watch For During Trump’s Israel Trip

US President Donald Trump speaks during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on February 15, 2017
AARON KLEIN

JERUSALEM — On Monday, President Donald Trump will arrive here in Israel for a jam-packed 24-hour visit that will include meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as visits to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and the Israel Museum.

Here are five major things to look out for during Trump’s trip:

1 – Will Trump keep his campaign pledge and move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem?

U.S. law requires the relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem. However, President Obama signed successive waivers delaying the move. The current waiver expires on June 1.

Numerous reports in recent days cited White House officials saying that Trump is not expected to use the visit to announce an embassy move. Still, that prognosis is subject to change. “The president has not made a decision yet and is still reviewing that,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said last week.

Even if Trump does not announce an embassy move, there are half measures that could be put into place, including the possibility of David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, setting up shop at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem instead of the beachfront embassy building in Tel Aviv.

2 – Will Trump make policy declarations regarding the status of Jerusalem?

It is not lost on observers that Trump will be in Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day, a national holiday here that marks Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem after the 1967 Six Day War and the establishment of Israeli sovereignty over the eastern sections of the city, which include the Old City, Western Wall and Temple Mount.

Israel officially annexed Jerusalem in 1980 in a move not recognized by the international community because the Palestinians claim eastern sections of the city for a future Palestinian capital despite their never having had a state or entity in those areas.

Current U.S. law does not officially recognize Israeli control over the eastern sections of the city, going so far as to prevent American citizens born in Jerusalem from listing “Israel” as their country of birth. All eyes will be on Trump to see if he makes any declarations regarding Israel’s status in Jerusalem.

3 – Will Trump announce the launch of new, U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations?

There are currently no plans for Trump to host a joint summit with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Instead, the focus will be on whether Trump plans to announce the relaunch of Israeli-Palestinian talks aimed at creating a Palestinian state despite the Palestinian Authority’s history of rejecting each previous Israeli offer of a state and in recent years refusing to even come to the bargaining table. These offers were made at Camp David in 2000, Taba in 2001, the Annapolis Conference in 2007 and again in 2008. In each of these cases, the PA refused generous Israeli statehood proposals and bolted negotiations without counteroffers.

The PA also failed to respond to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unprecedented attempts to jump-start negotiations aimed at creating a Palestinian state, including freezing Jewish construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, and releasing Palestinian prisoners.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said last week that the Trump administration does not plan to impose preconditions for talks and wants the two parties to iron things out. “As you can see, in contrast to what happened in 2009, when secretary [of state Hillary] Clinton demanded a complete settlement freeze and Abbas still didn’t show up to negotiate, here we have no demand for a settlement freeze and Abbas is prepared to meet with the prime minister of Israel without any preconditions,” he stated.

There have been reports Trump is seeking to re-launch talks for a period of six to twelve months without preconditions.

4 – Will Trump express support for a plan beyond the so-called two-state solution?

Ever since the 1991 Madrid Conference and the largely failed 1993 Oslo Accords that legitimized arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat as a peace partner, the U.S. and international community have upheld the “two state solution” as the only framework for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. That “solution” calls for the creation of a Palestinian state with borders to be negotiated, but it is generally understood that such a state would encompass the Gaza Strip, major swaths of the West Bank and a foothold in eastern Jerusalem.

Israeli frustration has grown after the PA turned down successive offers of a state and Abbas’s official government organs have continued to promote terrorism and the destruction of Israel. There has been widespread talk here about other ways to solve the so-called conflict, although the Israeli government has not officially proposed an alternative to the “two-state solution.”

Bucking the trends of the international community, Trump last February stated that the U.S. is open to possibilities outside the two-state framework. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like,” Trump said at a White House press briefing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

5 – Will Trump call on Sunni Arab countries to prod the Palestinians into talks and make a deal that would create peaceful relations between Israel and the countries of the larger Mideast and Persian Gulf?

The tectonic plates have shifted in this region following eight years of the Obama administration’s failed Mideast policies, especially the U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran. Sunni Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have reportedly been working behind the scenes with Israel to tackle the Iran threat, and relations between Israel and Sunni Arab countries have grown warmer as a result.

Last week, the Washington Post reported Trump may use his trip to Saudi Arabia to unveil plans for a new “Arab NATO” – a military alliance that would work to combat the threat of the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

Trump could take advantage of these regional trends to nudge Sunni Arab countries not currently in a state of peace with Israel (only Egypt and Jordan have signed peace deals with the Jewish state) to come out of the closet and launch official diplomatic relations with Israel instead of behind the scenes diplomacy. Trump could also include these Arab countries in Israeli-Palestinian talks in hopes of forging a larger regional deal that goes beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.

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