U.S. presidential trips are an opportunity to project power and burnish statesmanship. But they come with diplomatic dangers and potential pitfalls, too. For Donald Trump, several of those await in Jerusalem and Bethlehem next week.
A nine-day tour taking in Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Palestinian territories, the Vatican and NATO would be a tall order for any president. But for Trump, under siege at home over questions about his administration’s links to Russia and his firing of FBI chief James Comey, it is a particularly demanding itinerary, especially for a first overseas venture.
During his campaign, Trump promised to be Israel’s “best friend” if elected and signaled that it was okay for the Israeli government to go on building settlements on occupied land since he didn’t regard it as an obstacle to peace.
Since taking office, however, Trump has shifted tack, urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “hold back” on settlements, and praising Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a White House meeting this month, part of an effort to bring the sides together and launch another attempt at Middle East peace