Israel Prepares for an Eventful Week Ahead

May 22, 2017

by: Ilse Posselt

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Light show celebrating 50 years of Jerusalem’s reunification

Monday, 22 May 2017 | Yesterday marked the start of a particularly eventful week in the Promised Land, one which the people of Israel have prepared for and looked forward to for some time.

The first major event takes place this afternoon, when the Jewish state welcomes US President, Donald Trump, for a one-day official visit. Then, on Tuesday evening, Israelis from all over the country will flock to the City of Gold for Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of the reunification of the Jewish capital in 1967.

Speaking during the weekly opening of the Knesset (Israeli government) yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had an early message of welcome for Trump. “Mr. President,” Netanyahu said, “we look forward to your visit. The citizens of Israel will receive you with open arms.”

Netanyahu also gave Israeli lawmakers an overview of the topics the two world leaders are likely to touch on during Trump’s visit in the Jewish state. “I will discuss with President Trump ways to strengthen even further the primary and strongest alliance with the US. We will strengthen security ties, which are strengthening daily, and we will also discuss ways to advance peace.”

Trump’s trip to the Promised Land comes amid speculation that the US president has already set the wheels in motion to kick-start flailing the Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative and may start the process of setting up a peace summit shortly after returning home from his visit abroad. Trump has long since expressed his interest in spearheading successful negotiations between the two parties, hailing it as “the ultimate deal.”  

Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported last week that Trump will use the visit to Israel to discuss with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) President, Mahmoud Abbas, the possibility of committing to “confidence-building measures” that would lay the foundation for the prospective peace process. For Israel, such measures will reportedly include a freeze in construction in Judea and Samaria. For the Palestinians, Trump will allegedly ask Abbas to cease incitement against Israel.

Trump’s schedule for his one day in the Promised Land has been planned to the last detail, including meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leadership, an address at the Israel Museum and a private tour of Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Arriving straight from Riyadh on Air Force One, Trump is set to touch down at Ben Gurion Airport this afternoon at 12:15 to spend just over 24 hours of a nine-day foreign trip in the Jewish state. This is Trump’s first official international tour as US President and his itinerary for the time abroad also includes Saudi Arabia, Italy and the Vatican.

Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Knesset Speaker, Yuli Edelstein, and a number of other Israeli dignitaries will bid Trump welcome in a state ceremony, including a red carpet and an honor guard. Netanyahu, Trump and Rivlin are also all expected to make short speeches.

From Ben Gurion Airport, a helicopter will take Trump to Jerusalem for a 13:00 meeting with Rivlin at the latter’s residence. Following a private meeting, the two leaders will make statements to the press.

Trump will spend the rest of the afternoon on a private tour of the holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City. The tour will start with a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, after which the US president will make his way to the Western Wall. Trump will be the first ever sitting US president to visit Judaism’s holiest site, since US policy dictates that the final say of the sovereignty of Jerusalem is still to be determined during negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Following the tour, Trump will meet with Netanyahu at 18:00 at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, where the US president will also spend the night. The meeting is scheduled to last for approximately an hour and a half, after which the two world leaders and their wives will sit down to dinner at Netanyahu’s official residence.

The next morning will see the US president head to Bethlehem for a meeting with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. According to the White House website, Trump will use the meeting to “urge Palestinian leaders to take productive steps toward peace.”

After the meeting with the Palestinians, Trump will head back to Jerusalem for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum at 13:00. Then, it is on to the Israel Museum, from where the US president will deliver a formal address at 14:00. The White House website reveals that the speech will celebrate “the unique history of Israel and of the Jewish people.”

Trump’s 28 hours in the Promised Land will draw to a close on Tuesday afternoon, when he takes off from Ben Gurion Airport at 16:00 to head to Italy for the next leg of the international visit.

As Trump leaves the City of Gold, the people of Israel will count down the final few hours to the start of what is set to be one of the biggest celebrations in Jerusalem’s modern history. Sunset on Tuesday evening marks the beginning of Jerusalem Day, the anniversary of the day on which Israel managed to beat back the occupying Jordanian forces to reunite the City of Gold as the united capital of the Jewish nation—for the first time in nearly 2,000 years. Although the people of the Promised Land celebrate Jerusalem Day annually, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the miraculous reunification.

In honor of Jerusalem Day, the walls of the Old City have been lit up in a blue and white since Saturday night, projecting iconic images from the Six Day War as well as Israel’s flag onto the ancient walls. The Old City will remain decked out in its blue-and-white finery for the rest of the week, adding to the festive atmosphere in the city.

The celebrations ahead of Jerusalem Day kicked off officially last night with a spectacular sound and light ceremony hosted against the backdrop of Jerusalem’s Old City. Both Netanyahu and Rivlin attended the event.

“Fifty years ago we returned to the heart of our capital and our country, and 50 years ago we did not conquer—we liberated,” Netanyahu said.

“With the bravery of our soldiers and with the love of our people, Jerusalem was reunited and so, today, I say to the world with a loud and clear voice—Jerusalem was and always will be the capital of Israel. The Temple Mount and the Western Wall will always remain under Israeli sovereignty.”

For his part, Rivlin told the jubilant Jerusalemites, “Anyone who talks about Jerusalem, who analyzes and talks about the city’s dissolution, brings about disaster for it and its residents. Jerusalem is not the problem; it is the solution.”

Posted on May 22, 2017

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 22 May 2017)

Photo Credit: Ashernet