Israel denies requesting Trump delay visit until Jerusalem reunification anniversary

Israeli officials deny having requested that Trump delay his visit to the Jewish state to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem on June 7.

Sources in Jerusalem denied a report in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that the Trump administration had rejected an Israeli request for the president to postpone his visit to Israel for a couple of weeks. 

“No one asked the US to delay President Trump’s visit” the sources said, adding, “We are happy to host President Trump at any time.”

During his weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Trump “will be warmly welcomed here as a great friend of Israel and as is customary for the leader of our greatest ally, the United States.”

The Al-Hayat report, citing anonymous Western sources, said that Israel preferred Trump’s arrival to coincide with the secular date for the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War of 1967, which is June 7. 

Al-Hayat listed two reasons for the Trump administration’s refusal to postpone the visit, one of which was the desire to promote the president’s image as an honest broker in the Middle East peace process. The concern was that landing in Israel for the 50th anniversary on the secular calendar would undermine that goal.

Trump’s visit on May 22, however, will take place a day before the city of Jerusalem officially celebrates “Jerusalem Day,” marking the 50th anniversary of the city’s reunification on the Hebrew calendar.

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The second reason mentioned was that the postponement would necessarily cause a scheduling conflict in Trump’s itinerary for his first trip overseas. Trump will head to Saudi Arabia, then to Italy to meet with Pope Francis and Italian President Mattarella, followed by a NATO summit in Brussels and back to Italy for a G7 meeting in Sicily.

The White House officially announced on Thursday that Trump “accepted the invitation of President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Israel, where he will further strengthen the United States-Israel partnership.”

By: Jonathan Benedek, World Israel News