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Trump visits Jerusalem to seek paths to Israeli-Palestinian peace

22 May 2017

After Israel, Trump's marathon maiden foreign trip will take him to the Vatican for an audience with Pope Francis, to Brussels for a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit and to Sicily for a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven major industrial nations.

Among the main bones of contention between Israelis and Palestinians are Netanyahu's insistence that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and the Palestinians calling for a halt to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

President Trump later told the Hebrew daily Israel Hayom, a right-wing media outlet aligned with Netanyahu, that the Western Wall's rabbi, Shmuel Rabinowitz, would join him on his visit, saying that was "more traditional, but that could change".

Israel Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of its occupation of east Jerusalem, captured during the Six-Day War. Israel's subsequent annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognized internationally.

"Fifty years ago, we returned to the heart of our capital and our land", he said at ceremony.

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At the same time, he urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.

Before his appointment as U.S. envoy, Friedman was the chief fund-raiser for the Beit-El settlement, which neighbours the Palestinian city of Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority.

Trump was considering fulfill that pledge with an announcement during his visit to the city this week - which coincides with Jerusalem Day on Tuesday - but backed off the idea amid warnings from foreign policy officials in Washington as well as from Arab leaders in the region, who warned Trump such a move could hurt chances of reviving peace negotiations and inflame tensions in the region.

Trump has sent mixed signals about how he will approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Stores along his route were closed from Monday morning and police said that some homes would be taken over by police to ensure the president's security.

The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, which Israeli forces and settlers left in 2005, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

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"Abu Mazen has realized that the Arab countries are so exhausted of this issue and more focused on other problems, like the threat from Iran", he said.

Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon met with his Palestinian counterpart Shukri Bishara last week as part of efforts to come up with economic measures aimed at helping the Palestinians.

Trump's trip comes as the issue of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem in general and the Old City specifically has been hotly contested by the worldwide community, which prefers to settle the city's status within the context of a final-status solution with the Palestinians.

"That sounds like a policy decision", McMaster said. "And if you both are willing, we're going to make a deal". "Once he bumps into early difficulties, he may walk away".

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