(Central Israel) — President Trump made it official yesterday: his first foreign trip will begin with stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican where he will meet with the Pope. From there, he will participate in a NATO Summit in Brussels, followed by the G-7 Summit in Sicily, Italy. He will depart the U.S. on May 19.
As we continue praying for the peace of Jerusalem, let’s pray that this trip to the region would help advance the cause of regional stability, security and religious freedom and an open and respectful dialogue between Jews, Muslims and followers of Jesus.
Mr. Trump made the announcement of his “historic” trip on an already big day. The House passed a bill to “repeal and replace” Obamacare after months of painstaking negotiations on Capitol Hill. It was also the National Day of Prayer. The President met with Evangelical leaders and signed an Executive Order advancing religious freedom.
The President’s decision to visit Israel on his first foreign trip keeps a campaign pledge. It also further underscores the warm and close bonds this White House is intentionally building with the Israeli people and government, a sharp contrast to the last eight years. President Obama skipped Israel on his first visit to the Mideast in June of 2009.
I’m very encouraged that the President is coming here to the epicenter. He will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, visit key religious and historic sites, and outline his vision for peace. He may also meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, though that has not been confirmed. He just met with Abbas in Washington on Wednesday.
The decision to visit Rome — and meet with the Pope — will underscore the President’s efforts to strengthen ties to Christian leaders. His emphasis, so far, has been with Evangelical leaders, many of whom helped him win the presidency.
The decision to visit Saudi Arabia first was dramatic for a leader who consistently attacks “radical Islamic terrorism” and called for a “Muslim ban” during his campaign.
But Mr. Trump has been intentionally — and rightly — reaching out to Arab Muslim leaders in recent months to forge a working alliance against Iran and ISIS. He recently met with the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, along with Jordanian, Egyptian, Iraqi and Palestinian leaders.
“Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam, and it is there that we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies, to combat extremism, terrorism and violence,” Mr. Trump said, “and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries.”
“Our task is not to dictate to others how to live, but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the war-ravaged Middle East,” he said.
“Tolerance is the cornerstone of peace,” Mr. Trump said at a ceremony at the White House, in which he said he would go to “Saudi Arabia, then Israel, and then to a place that my cardinals love very much, Rome.”
“The Saudi stop will consist of three meetings for Mr. Trump: one with the current monarch, King Salman; a gathering of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which consists of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries; and a broader meeting with Arab and Muslim countries,” reports the New York Times.
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