The Trump administration is in discussions with Israel to arrange a presidential visit toward the end of May, an Israeli official said.
The stop in Jerusalem may be part of President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip, when he’s scheduled to attend a NATO conference in Brussels and a G-7 meeting in Italy. Aides to Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are in talks about a side trip to Israel, though no date has been set, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to make a public statement.
Netanyahu’s office and the White House declined to comment. Talks to arrange the trip were reported earlier by Haaretz. A U.S. advance team is scheduled to arrive in Israel Wednesday to prepare for the possible visit, Channel 2 TV reported, citing an official it didn’t identify.
When Netanyahu visited the White House in February, Trump said he would like to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, which he called the “ultimate deal.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House on May 3.
Trump scrambled more than a decade of U.S. policy when he said during Netanyahu’s visit that he isn’t necessarily aiming for a two-state solution. The president said he “could live” with an agreement that ends up with one state for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Netanyahu says he supports the idea of two separate states but doesn’t consider it realistic in the near future. While Abbas favors the two-state plan, Palestinian support for negotiations with Israel has dwindled since the latest round of U.S.-sponsored talks failed in 2014.
If Trump visits Israel in May he will arrive in the middle of Israel’s Jerusalem Day celebrations, marking 50 years since it captured east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, along with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinians bitterly recall the anniversary as the beginning of Israel’s half-century occupation of their homeland.
Trump pledged during his campaign to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv but since taking office he hasn’t promoted that idea, which provoked fierce opposition from Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah and other Arab leaders.