President Donald Trump touched down in Israel on Monday for a whirlwind visit that seems destined to shake up the Middle East. One insider noted that the myriad surprises presented by the president on his first official tour were intentional, meant to bring Israel and the US closer, while returning America to its role as a world superpower.
As chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel and vice president of the global Republicans Overseas organization, Marc Zell, an attorney in an international law firm, has an insider’s perspective. Zell pointed out that Trump’s visit presented several surprising and unprecedented aspects even before arriving in Israel.
“He is setting history and breaking precedents for the better wherever he goes,” Zell said. “His speech in Riyadh was extraordinary: a courageous speech I can’t imagine any other president making. He returned America to the world stage as a superpower.”
Trump’s speech in Riyadh, addressing heads of more than 50 Muslim states, was the first time a US president addressed such a crowd. The speech, couched in unequivocally strong terms, called on the Muslim world to play an active role in fighting the terrorist element in its midst.
“Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this Earth,” Trump said. In the speech, Trump lumped Hamas together with Islamic State (ISIS), Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah as terrorist groups. “Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith. Terrorists do not worship God. They worship death.”
Trump even broke precedents while travelling, flying Air Force One three hours from Saudi Arabia directly to Israel. The two countries do not have official political relations and therefore there are no official flights that connect them. Trump’s flight on Monday morning was purported to have been the first direct flight ever made from Riyadh to Tel Aviv.
His arrival in Israel was even more remarkable.
“This is the first time that any president has visited Israel on his first visit abroad,” Zell said to Breaking Israel News. “It is the first time a sitting president has visited the Kotel (Western Wall). This is clearly historic. President Trump promised this in his campaign and now he is coming through.”
Zell explained that the element of surprise was a tool in the president’s arsenal as a deal maker.
“Whenever President Trump does an event, there are always surprises,” Zell said. “It’s an effective negotiating technique Trump described in his book, The Art of the Deal. He likes to keep all of the opposing parties off-balance.”
Zell noted that many other significant yet subtle aspects of the president’s trip indicated drastic changes in issues concerning the region.
“Abbas is meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday, but it is clear that the Palestinians are no longer the central issue,” Zell said. “Now, meeting them is a just necessary part of the cosmetics of negotiations.”
Many of the technical aspects of the visit were settled only in the final hours. The president’s arrival was originally intended to be an event held without pomp. It was decided a few days ago that the president would be received in a grand manner, with a 250-foot red carpet and military band. He was greeted at Ben Gurion International Airport with an elaborate ceremony and speeches by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.
After arriving, President Trump flew to Jerusalem by helicopter, arriving at the President’s official residence, where the First Family witnessed the unveiling of an almond tree that was planted to commemorate the occasion. Inscribed next to the tree are two verses from Psalms, in Hebrew, English, and Arabic.
In the afternoon, President Trump visited the Kotel (The Western Wall). The visit was not part of the official itinerary and was considered a private visit. Nonetheless, as the first visit by a president to this Jewish holy site in the heart of Jerusalem, it was clearly groundbreaking.
“This is an enormously significant statement about how this administration sees the status of Jerusalem,” Zell stated, adding that though Trump has not yet announced he will move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a promise made on the campaign trail – he believes that the president will eventually fulfill his word.