U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Israel on Monday afternoon, kicking off a 28-hour visit to the Jewish state with a warm reception at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Rueven Rivlin.
“Throughout the Middle East, Christian communities are decimated, minorities persecuted. But here in Israel, we’re proud to have a growing and thriving Christian community, and we guarantee the rights of all,” Netanyahu said two minutes into his welcoming speech (the 7:15 mark in the video below).
Throughout the Middle East, Christian communities are decimated, minorities are persecuted. But here in Israel, we’re proud to have a growing and thriving Christian community, and we guarantee the rights of all.
Netanyahu also lauded the president’s forceful speech in Saudi Arabia to drive out terrorism and extremism and noted Israel’s battle against terrorism began 69 years ago when Israel became a nation.
“We’ve manned the front lines of civilizations. We fought terrorism, and we built a modern, vibrant, democratic Jewish State. In doing, Mr. President, we’ve protected all faiths, Muslims, Christians, everyone,” he said.
“Israel’s hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors, including the Palestinians,” Netanyahu continued. “The peace we seek is a genuine one, in which the Jewish state is recognized, security remains in Israel’s hands, and the conflict ends once and for all.”
Trump made Israel the second stop on his first foreign trip since taking office in January. He touched down from Saudi Arabia where he was also warmly received and delivered strong words against terrorism.
“During my travels in recent days, I have found new reasons for hope. I have just concluded a visit to Saudi Arabia, where yesterday I met with King Salman and leaders from across the Muslim and Arab world,” Trump said in a ceremony after disembarking from Air Force One in Israel. “In that visit we reached a historic agreement to pursue greater and greater cooperation against terrorism.”
I have found new reasons for hope
Israelis are also anxiously awaiting to hear whether Trump will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital since his visit coincides with the 50th anniversary of the city’s reunification. Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin bluntly asked him to do just that as they greeted him on the receiving line at the airport.
Whether or not he does, Trump’s mere presence and his friendly relationship with Netanyahu stands in stark contrast to the chilly relations that existed between the two allies under former President Barack Obama. No U.S. president has ever included Israel on his first foreign tour, which Netanyahu called a “powerful expression of your friendship to Israel.”
We love Israel, we respect Israel
“We love Israel, we respect Israel, and I bring the warmest greetings from your friend and ally, all of the people of the United States of America,” Trump said.
Trump will meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on Tuesday morning.
Air Force One took a historic direct flight to Israel. The Saudis do not allow flights directly to or from Israel and this was a first.
“Mr. President, you just flew from Riyadh to Tel Aviv,” Netanyahu said. “I hope that one day an Israeli prime minister can fly from Tel Aviv to Riyadh.”
First Lady Melania Trump, the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, presidential advisor Jared Kushner, are also in Israel and accompanied Trump on some of his stops including a visit to the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City.
As Rivlin noted in his welcome remarks, Trump will visit the holy sites of all three Abrahamic religions during this tour.
“We each have different beliefs — but we all worship the same God,” the Israeli president said. “We can work together towards a better future. We shall continue to do so, together. Welcome to Israel. God bless you, Mr. President. God bless you, First Lady. God bless America. God bless Israel.”