Donald Trump arrives in Israel amid tight security

President Donald Trump (2nd L) and First Lady Melania Trump (3rd L) walk with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd R), his wife Sara (R) and David Friedman (Center back), the new United States ambassador to Israel, upon their arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod near Tel Aviv, Israel May 22, 2017Image copyright

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President Trump and his wife Melania’s flight to Israel is likely to prove historic

US President Donald Trump has arrived in Israel as he continues his first foreign trip.

He flew in from Saudi Arabia, a key US ally, where he gave a speech to Arab and Muslim leaders at a summit.

Mr Trump will hold talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders during the course of his two-day stop.

The president has called an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement “the ultimate deal”, but has been vague about what form it should take.

He has said he prefers to leave it to both sides to decide between them in direct talks. On his arrival in Tel Aviv, Mr Trump said he hoped the US and Israel could work together in an era of “harmony, prosperity and peace”.

Mr Trump’s flight between Saudi Arabia and Israel is likely to have been the first between the two countries, that have no diplomatic relations.

What can we expect to come up, and what is the context for his visit?

What is Mr Trump’s position on Israel’s settlements?

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Media captionWhat’s on the agenda for President Trump’s first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories?

The US president has been widely seen as considerably more supportive of Israel 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.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, land Palestinians claim for a future state.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

An embassy in Jerusalem?

The president has also sent mixed signals on the issue of Jerusalem, pledging to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, angering Palestinians and delighting Israelis.

However he has since stalled, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently telling NBC News that Mr Trump was weighing it up.

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Media captionWhy aren’t the Israelis and Palestinians talking?

Israel regards the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim the east as their capital. The international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.

The ultimate deal – By Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor, Jerusalem

President Trump believes he is the world’s greatest dealmaker, and making peace between Israelis and Palestinians after a century of conflict would be the world’s biggest deal.

During the US election, candidate Trump expressed views that seemed to fit neatly with those of the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu – favouring expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied territory and a tough line towards Palestinian aspirations for independence.

But in office, President Trump has been more nuanced – so there’s been some nervous speculation on the Israeli right that he might demand concessions from their side.

More than two decades of failed peace talks show how difficult it is to get a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Most people, on both sides of the argument, are deeply sceptical about the chances of any progress, no matter what President Trump says or does while he is here.

Anything contentious about the visit?

There has been some consternation in Israel in the run-up to Mr Trump’s trip over remarks made by administration officials.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Mr Tillerson’s suggestion that moving the embassy might harm the peace process, while a US Consulate official caused outrage by saying the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, was “not in your [Israel’s] territory but part of the West Bank”.

The White House later said: “The Western Wall is in Jerusalem… such alleged statements would not have been authorised by the White House, [and] do not reflect the US position, and certainly not the president’s position”.

Mr Trump is expected to visit the Western Wall, located in the Old City of East Jerusalem, in a private capacity on Monday – the first sitting US president to do so.

He will also visit the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where according to Christian tradition Jesus was buried and resurrected.

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Media captionTour guide Shraga Ben Yosef gives us a quick trip around Jerusalem’s holiest sites

Mr Trump’s trip also comes days after it was reported that the president had leaked to Russia’s foreign minister classified intelligence information said to have come from an Israeli source. The incident has raised questions about the confidentiality of secret intelligence passed to the US by its closest Middle Eastern ally.

A huge security operation is under way for the visit, during which he will hold separate meetings with Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem the following day.

A day before Mr Trump was due to arrive, Israel’s announced economic and development concessions for Palestinians, including easing some restrictions on movement and approving industrial construction projects.

What about the rest of the trip?

At a summit in Riyadh on Sunday, Mr Trump stated again that he believed peace between Israelis and Palestinians was possible.

He also called on Arab and Muslim leaders to take the lead in combating Islamist militants, urging them to “drive them out of this earth“.

Mr Trump’s eight-day trip will also take in Brussels, the Vatican, and Sicily.

The president’s visit has been overshadowed by his political difficulties at home, namely the fallout over his sacking of FBI chief James Comey.

  • Monday, 22 May: Jerusalem
  • Tuesday, 23 May: Bethlehem and Jerusalem
  • Wednesday 24 May: Rome and Brussels. Mr Trump will meet Pope Francis, then Belgian officials
  • Thursday, 25 May: A Nato meeting in Brussels
  • Friday, 26 May: Sicily, for a summit of G7 members

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