Saudi Arabia and Israel Face the Uncertainties of Trump’s Upcoming Visit

Saudi Arabia and Israel Face the Uncertainties of Trump’s Upcoming Visit
Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is escorted to his car by President Donald Trump as he leaves the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Feb. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

U.S. President Donald Trump’s first overseas trip will begin in Saudi Arabia and Israel, two countries whose leaders have vocally welcomed Trump’s shift in approach to the region compared to his predecessor, Barack Obama. But the new president’s unpredictable nature means that neither country can take anything for granted during his visit.

The White House has previewed the president’s trip, which will also take him to Italy for the G-7 Summit in Sicily and a meeting with the Pope, and Brussels for the NATO Summit. Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, briefed the press Friday, outlining an ambitious program with three themes: to reaffirm American leadership, to bond with world leaders, and to promote a message of unity among three of the world’s great religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. More specifically, the president is expected to engage his counterparts in the Middle East on containing Iran, countering the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaida, and promoting the Israel-Palestine peace process.

The trip begins in Saudi Arabia, where the Trump administration has worked to consolidate cooperation on shared threats, putting aside the issues of human rights and other cultural and political frictions that have long haunted the relationship. Trump and King Salman will seek to strengthen the bond that was forged this spring when the president met in Washington with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s son and the kingdom’s likely future leader.

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