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Trump Arrives In Israel In Search Of 'Ultimate Deal'

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wave upon their arrival in Tel Aviv, Israel, on May 22.
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wave upon their arrival in Tel Aviv, Israel, on May 22.

U.S. President Donald Trump has arrived in Israel at the start of a two-day visit to Israel on May 22, seeking progress toward what he has called the "ultimate deal" -- a peace pact between Israelis and Palestinians.

Trump has set separate meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas, hoping to bring new momentum to peace talks that have been stalled since 2014.

Nevertheless, Trump's aides have played down expectations for a major breakthrough, saying the visit should be seen more as a symbolic gesture.

In an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman said Trump's goal for now was simply "to begin a discussion that would hopefully lead to peace."

Before Trump arrived, the Israelis on May 21 approved some economic concessions to the Palestinians that the U.S. president had requested.

"The security cabinet has approved economic measures that will ease daily civilian life in the Palestinian Authority after [Trump], who arrives tomorrow, asked to see some confidence building steps," a cabinet statement said.

The concessions included construction permits for Palestinians in sections of the West Bank that are under Israeli control, areas where Palestinians have previously been barred, officials said.

Israeli media reported the concessions also included keeping a border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan open 24 hours a day.

Tough Discussions Expected

Israel is a longtime staunch U.S. ally, but Trump is still likely to have some tough discussions.

He may be asked for explanations following media reports that he disclosed highly classified intelligence Israel obtained about the Islamic State (IS) militant group to top Russian officials without Israel's permission.

Israel also expressed concern about the $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia that Trump announced on May 20 in Riyadh, with one official saying it was "definitely something that should trouble us."

Trump has also backed away a vow made during his presidential campaign to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Palestinians regard Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War, annexed it, and declared all of the city as its capital, a move never recognized by the international community.

Trump is scheduled to hold talks with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin before meeting with Netanyahu at 6 p.m. (5 p.m. Prague time) on May 22. He is scheduled to meet Abbas in Bethlehem the following day.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and dpa