Trump To Meet With Israelis And Palestinians While On Middle East Trip

May 22, 2017
Originally published on May 22, 2017 6:50 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Trump has arrived in Israel this morning. This is the second stop on his first overseas trip since taking office. He's going to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Now, let's remember, earlier this month President Trump emphasized his commitment to restarting peace negotiations.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's a - something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years. But we need two willing parties.

GREENE: Let's talk now with Chemi Shalev. He is a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. And he's on the line from Tel Aviv. Chemi, good morning.

CHEMI SHALEV: Good morning.

GREENE: So peace negotiations, quote, "not as difficult as people have thought over the years," Donald Trump's take there. What do you make of that?

SHALEV: Well, I don't think he'll find many people in Israel who agree with that assessment. I don't think that people really think that he knows what he's talking about when he says that. And that's why there is some apprehension about what it is that he thinks these negotiations or this peace process, which nobody's been able to crack for the past 50 years, what is this special formula that he thinks can get things done? So there's curiosity mixed in with a bit of concern, especially if we're talking about the Israeli government and its right-wing coalition partners.

GREENE: Well, let me ask you that all-important question that people always ask when U.S. leaders come and visit the region. I mean, what exactly does Donald Trump have to get out of this visit to call it some kind of success?

SHALEV: Well, first of all, I think that when you look at the way Israelis looked at his visit in Saudi Arabia, and especially his speech yesterday, I think they're quite satisfied and quite happy with his message. And they weren't too deterred by the welcome that he received from the Saudi princes, and even the fact that he danced with swords didn't seem to blemish his trip. So he's coming here with the sort of halo of someone who represents the opposite of what Barack Obama represented. And for most Israelis, that seems to be good news.

I think for him to - I don't think he's - at least the estimation is that he's not going to get into the nitty-gritty of a peace process during this visit. And so I think that it'll be a success if he has good photo ops, if he makes a good speech and, you know, if - generally, if he's received well and if there aren't any major mishaps. I don't think - I think the bar is quite low for him to declare this mission a success because I think Israelis are going to go out of their way to try to make him feel welcome. Although, of course, they're not going to be able to compete with the show that the Saudis put on.

GREENE: And just in the last few seconds we have, what about the Donald Trump sharing of that classified material reportedly, which came from Israel? There's some reports that Israelis are furious.

SHALEV: Well, first of all, I don't think Israelis are furious. I think there are many Israelis, especially those that are connected to the intelligence community, that were very upset by this. And I'm sure that this is going to come up in the conversations between officials and perhaps even in the conversations between the president and our prime minister.

GREENE: OK.

SHALEV: But I don't think that this is going to mar - this isn't a big enough of a blow-up between the two countries that it will mar the visit itself.

GREENE: All right. Chemi Shalev, a columnist with the newspaper Haaretz, on Skype with us. Thanks so much, Chemi.

SHALEV: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.