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Donald Trump's Arab visit puts Israel-Palestine deal on backburner

The US President's visit was marked by a strong anti-Iran stance

Press Trust of India  |  Bethlehem 

Donald Trump's Arab visit puts Israel-Palestine deal on backburner

Consolidating US interests in the Middle East and rallying allies in the region around the common threat posed by seems to have overwhelmingly superseded concerns regarding reviving the deadlocked Israel- Palestinian peace talks during US President Donald Trump's first foreign trip, analysts said on Tuesday. The much-publicised "ultimate deal" between and Palestinians that craves for has been put on the backburner with brief mention in the speeches by leaders. Much of the attention was focused on and the dangers it poses to US' allies in the region, providing them with enough reason to forget about their differences and work towards the common goal of denying Tehran the nuclear bomb, they said. The Palestinian issue has at best received some lip service and a few goodwill gestures from under US administration's influence ahead of Trump's meeting with Palestinian President on Tuesday. Continuing with the theme of isolating Tehran, a strong plea the US leader made with Arab leaders during his stay in Saudi Arabia, he went a notch higher in lashing out at the root of all evil during his meetings with Israeli leaders. "The United States and can declare with one voice that must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon - never ever - and must cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias," said in remarks at President Reuven Rivlin's residence here on Monday. "It must cease immediately," he asserted. Later in the evening during his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he lambasted the Islamic Republic by pointing out that its footprint were visible in every place that has suffered from terrorism in the Middle East. "No matter where we go, whether it's Syria, where we were really forced to shoot the 59 missiles a few weeks ago. No matter what area we're in, we see Yemen, Iraq, no matter where we are, we see the signs, every sign, whether it's soldiers, whether it's money and guns, it's Iran" stressed. also accused of being "ungrateful" towards his country whose previous administration bailed it out with the nuclear deal, but it only "emboldened" the Islamic Republic. "And instead of saying thank you to the United States, they now feel emboldened. Maybe they figure the deal was so good, we can do it every time. They can't do it. Believe me. But it was a terrible, a terrible thing for the United States to enter that deal, and believe me, will never have a nuclear weapon, that I can tell you," emphasised. During his stay in Saudi Arabia, had accused of fuelling 'the fires of sectarian conflict and terror' in the region and called for its isolation. Netanyahu was only too happy to welcome Trump's utterances against and its nuclear programme which the Israeli leader has said is an existential threat to his country. "I want you to know how much we appreciate the change in American policy on which you enunciated so clearly just an hour ago. I want you to know how much we appreciate your bold decision to act against the use of chemical weapons in Syria. And I want to tell you also how much we appreciate the reassertion of American leadership in the Middle East", Netanyahu promptly responded. "I look forward to working closely with you to confront the dangers we face together in this violent and volatile Middle East.

I believe that together we could roll back Iran's march of aggression and terror in this region and we can thwart Iran's unbridled ambition to become a nuclear weapon state," the Israeli prime minister added. However, Netanyahu, who has been trying hard to convey to his population that Israel's acceptance globally has been expanding under his leadership in Asia and the Middle East, gleefully found the changing dynamics in the Middle East precipitated by Trump's "historic visit" as "pregnant with possibility". "I just left - I will say, I just left Saudi Arabia. The King... We had an amazing two days and their feeling towards is really very positive. Tremendous progress has been made. I think a lot of that progress has been made because of the aggression of and it's forcing people together in a very positive way," the US president said. "And if you look at King Salman and Saudi Arabia and others that I was with - the UAE and Bahrain and Kuwait and so many others, it was something. It was very historic, what took place over the last two days. But I could see a much deeper path to friendship with Israel, and I think a lot of that's spurred on whatever it takes, but a lot of it's spurred on by what's happening with So progress has been made," added, hinting at Israel's growing acceptance among Arab nations under the common threat posed by Tehran. The Israeli prime minister, acknowledging the change in Arab attitude towards the Jewish state, said he could see the possibility of reconciliation. "I think that the fact that you've taken a very strong position on Iran, different position, not only helps security, but also helps propel the possibility of reconciliation and peace between and the Arab world. And that will help reconciliation between and the Palestinians. "Of course, not all of that I like to discuss before the cameras but I do look forward to our discussions, which I think are pregnant with possibility," Netanyahu responded. As far as Israel-Palestinian issue is concerned it got passing references in the speeches of and Israeli leaders. Preparing the ground for Trump-Abbas meet today in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Israeli ministers on Sunday approved certain measures aimed at improving the Palestinian economy and facilitating crossings to ease movement of Palestinians at the request of US administration, local media reported. The gestures included enlarging of a Palestinian industrial zone, examining the possibility of extending railways to the West Bank town of Jenin and easing movement of Palestinians at various checkpoints. Daily Ha'aretz reported that would also allow construction of thousands of Palestinian homes in Area C which is under Israel's security and administrative control. Palestinians yesterday gathered to protest at various places in the territories against Trump's visit and over conditions in Israeli prisons and at military checkpoints around the West Bank. Hundreds of stone-throwing youths clashed with Israeli soldiers firing tear gas and rubber bullets. At least one person was reportedly injured at the Qalandia checkpoint near Jerusalem. In the Gaza Strip, some Palestinians trampled photos of the US leader and even burnt an effigy of The US president has been widely seen as considerably more supportive of than his predecessor Barack Obama. He has taken a softer position on the contentious issue of Israeli settlements, suggesting that their expansion rather than their presence might hamper the search for peace. During his election campaign, expressed views that seemed to fit neatly with those of the right-wing Israeli government of Netanyahu favouring expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and a tough line towards Palestinian aspirations for independence. However, after taking charge of presidency his statements have been rather nuanced on the issue of settlements as well as regarding moving of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, causing some heartburn among his right-wing supporters here. To summarise his first visit to the region it can be said that it has been full of grand gestures but bereft of any tangible clues as to how he is going to achieve the "ultimate deal" between and the Palestinians.

First Published: Tue, May 23 2017. 19:25 IST