US President Donald Trump is set to arrive in Israel for a two-day visit on 22 May, official sources in Jerusalem told The Times of Israel yesterday.
On Thursday, a delegation of some 25 US officials landed in Israel to start planning what is due to be the President’s first trip abroad since entering the White House. No previous US president has visited Israel in the first months of his term.
Trump is expected to bring a substantial entourage to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, including senior figures in the administration such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defence Secretary James Mattis and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.
It is thought that Trump will visit Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and the Old City in Jerusalem as well as the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
The timing of the visit will coincide with the day Israelis celebrate the unification of Jerusalem, which begins on the evening of 23 May. Speculation has continued over whether Trump will follow through on his campaign promise of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Yesterday Trump refused to confirm reports that he would announce the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv. When asked about the relocation by US media, Trump said: “Ask me in a month on that.”
The trip will come a week before a waiver signed by predecessor Barack Obama delaying the embassy relocation for security reasons will expire. US Congress passed a law in 1995 mandating the US Embassy be moved to Jerusalem, but allowed the president to exercise a six-month waiver on national security grounds.
Israeli sources have suggested that there is almost no chance he will move the embassy at this point, but rather they expect him to declare recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Referring to a potential restart of a peace process, Trump told Reuters: “I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians. There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians – none whatsoever.”