Donald Trump
President Trump with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Just to make sure there wasn’t a shed of doubt in your mind, President Trump made it exceedingly clear: He wants a deal. “I intend to do everything I can,” he said on Tuesday.

The President officially departed after a 28-hour stay in Israel, which included a visit to the West Wall, and meetings the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

“President Abbas assures me he is ready to work toward that goal in good faith,” Trump said in Bethlehem, standing alongside Abbas. “And Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised the same.”

What President Trump failed to do was reveal the slightest hint of what, if anything, was behind it: He applied the most minimal amount of pressure on either of the leaders. Gone were the usual talks and comments of borders, settlements, of incitement of terrorism or of the long and gnarled history of two peoples on the same land. He did not once speak on or acknowledge his campaign promise of moving the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or recognize the city as Israel’s capital.

Nor was there a process for what comes next.

“This is a visit that has no substance,” said Khalil Shikaki, a Palestinian pollster and political analyst.

Donald Trump
Trump and his wife, Melania, laid a wreath on Tuesday at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.


That does not mean, others have been quick to point out, the trip, Trump’s first abroad as U.S. president, was not useful in the building of bridges, in perhaps re-setting or setting a different tone, in showing Israelis full support and Palestinians respect. Trump made it crystal clear the new relationship Israel seeks with its Sunni neighbors, some of whom he had met with in Saudi Arabia before touching down in Israel, can be linked to progress with Palestine.

Most experts have agreed Trump succeeded in such tasks, with few of the missteps that have dogged him at home.

Netanyahu, pressed by conservatives in his coalition, got much of what he wanted in a speech delivered Tuesday by Trump at the Israel Museum that adopted much of the prime minister’s own worldview — the image of a democratic Israel defending itself against enemies such as Iran.

“Through it all, they have endured and, in fact, they have thrived,” Trump said. “I stand in awe of the accomplishments of the Jewish people, and I make this promise to you: My administration will always stand with Israel.”

These words delivered were followed immediately by a standing ovation, and a handshake from Netanyahu.

Trump went on to note that Iran has committed itself to Israel’s destruction.

“Not with Donald J. Trump, believe me,” he said, vehemently, to the crowd’s delight. “Thank you,” Trump said, adding, “I like you, too.”

While the trip was focused almost completely on Israel, Abbas, struggling to maintain sway after years in power, got at least some of what he wanted as he hosted Trump in Bethlehem as a seeming equal. His trip and hourlong meeting with Abbas had all the pomp and circumstance of an official state visit — a quickly corrected schedule posted by the White House even referred to “Palestine,” which many Israelis object to as a recognition of a Palestinian state.

Abbas, who met with Mr. Trump this month in Washington, repeated “our commitment to cooperate with you in order to make peace and forge a historic peace deal.”

In the byzantine world of Middle East peacemaking, the White House’s approach, appearing to lack the clarity of meetings past, may be a good thing at this stage. Trump’s advisers say that instead of pressuring and dictating, the way former Secretary of State John Kerry did during past failed peace efforts, ambiguity leaves them room to maneuver.

However, in their meetings, neither of Trump’s partners moved even an inch from their long-held positions and used their American guest in separate meetings to lash out at each other.

Isaac Herzog, the opposition leader and the head of Israel’s Labor Party, said that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser on the Middle East, had told him that the United States intended to follow up quickly with a process moving toward an agreement. Israeli and Palestinian officials were mum about private talks.

“Is anything behind all of this? That, only the prime minister knows,” said Mitchell Barak, an Israeli pollster and former political adviser. “This is probably the way he did business. From what I can see, he goes into a meeting, he puts on a show. He’s the Liberace of world leaders,” he added of Trump.

Decades of American-led peacemaking has resulted in little when it comes to a deal with the Palestinians. But there is precedent for strict secrecy in the early stages, if that is what is happening.

Israeli and Palestine Liberation Organization officials met in secret in hotel rooms and country estates and came up with the principles that led to the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s, with the Norwegians acting as a conduit. The United States were not active in these talks. The Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty signed in 1994 was also the culmination of decades of secret bilateral contacts.

“A good visit,” said Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and a historian. “Now we will see how we will build on it.”