President Trump arrived Monday morning in Israel, kicking off the second leg of his first foreign trip as president.
CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan says President Trump was greeted upon touching down in Tel Aviv by nearly every Israeli cabinet minister and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Never before has a U.S. president’s first foreign trip included a visit to Israel. Thank you, Mr. President,” said Netanyahu during a welcome ceremony at the airport.
President Trump then made brief remarks at the same podium, saying he was in the country to “reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel,” and expressing optimism that through cooperation, his administration and its partners might seize a “rare opportunity to bring stability and peace to this region.”
President Trump is scheduled to hold meetings with Netanyahu and, separately, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to test the waters for jumpstarting the dormant Middle East peace process.
President Trump has declared in the past that finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “maybe not as difficult as people have thought,” and he arrived for his first visit to Israel full of promises, but with few concrete ideas on how to solve the problem that has vexed U.S. presidents for decades.
President Trump, fresh off two days in Saudi Arabia, is also planning to visit the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem and the Western Wall, an important Jewish holy site.
Despite the president’s previous remarks about the peace process, White House aides have tried to play down expectations for significant progress during his stop.
President Trump has handed son-in-law Jared Kushner and longtime business lawyer Jason Greenblatt the assignment of charting the course toward a peace process. The White House-driven effort is a sharp shift from the practice of previous U.S. administrations, which have typically given secretaries of state those reins.
Kushner and Greenblatt are accompanying President Trump on his two-day visit.
While White House aides have cast the visit as more symbolic than substantive, Mr. Trump may still need to engage in some delicate diplomacy following revelations that he disclosed highly classified intelligence Israel obtained about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to top Russian officials, without Israel’s permission.
While many Israeli officials cheered President Trump’s election, some are now wary of the tougher line he has taken on settlements; urging restraint but not calling for a full halt to construction.
Trump has retreated from a campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, meanwhile, bending to the same diplomatic and security concerns as other presidents who have made similar promises.
Palestinians, who viewed President Trump’s victory with some trepidation, are said to have been pleasantly surprised by his openness during a recent meeting with Abbas in Washington. A senior official who was part of the Palestinian delegation said President Trump is planning to try to relaunch peace talks, with a goal of reaching an agreement within a year.
The Trump administration rejected a request from the Palestinians to push for an Israeli settlement freeze, but promised to sort out the issue during peace negotiations, according to the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the private meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.
As Brennan reports, President Trump proposed a new partnership with the Arab and Muslim world during his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia.
After his stay in Israel, Mr. Trump’s trip will take him to the Vatican, Brussels and Sicily.