Ques­tions about Rus­sia chase Trump dur­ing first visit to Is­rael

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - JONATHAN LEMIRE AND JULIE PACE

JERUSALEM — U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump solemnly placed a note in the an­cient stones of Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Mon­day, send­ing a sig­nal of sol­i­dar­ity to an ally that he’s push­ing to work harder to­ward peace with the Pales­tini­ans.

But his his­toric ges­ture — and his en­thu­si­as­tic em­brace of Is­rael’s leader — were shad­owed even here by re­minders of Trump’s tu­mult back home

In this sec­ond stop on his maiden for­eign trip, Trump un­ex­pect­edly of­fered a new de­fence of his dis­clo­sure of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to Rus­sian diplo­mats in a re­cent Oval Of­fice meet­ing. Stand­ing along­side Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, he ar­gued he never men­tioned Is­rael, the source of the clas­si­fied in­tel­li­gence, ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous of­fi­cials — some­thing he has not been ac­cused of do­ing.

“I never men­tioned the word or the name Is­rael,” he told re­porters. “So you have an­other story wrong.”

The mo­ment was de­par­ture from an oth­er­wise warm and smooth wel­come for Trump to the Holy Land. Af­ter years of butting heads with Trump’s pre­de­ces­sor, Ne­tanyahu cel­e­brated a new pres­i­dent’s ar­rival as a mo­ment of hope in the stalled peace talks be­tween Is­rael and Pales­tini­ans. Trump, ar­riv­ing from Saudi Ara­bia, de­clared he saw the pos­si­bil­ity of new align­ment of Mus­lim na­tions and Is­rael against a shared foe — Iran.

“There is a grow­ing re­al­iza­tion among your Arab neigh­bours that they have com­mon cause with you in the threat posed by Iran,” he said, at a wel­come meet­ing.

“I also look for­ward to work­ing closely with you to ad­vance peace in our re­gion, be­cause you have noted so suc­cinctly that com­mon dan­gers are turn­ing for­mer en­e­mies into part­ners. It won’t be sim­ple. But for the first time in many years — and, Mr. Pres­i­dent, for the first time in my life­time — I see a real hope for change.”

Trump trav­els to Beth­le­hem Tues­day to visit with Palestinian leader Mah­moud Ab­bas in the West Bank. He’ll later to lay a wreath at the Yad Vashem, a Holo­caust me­mo­rial, and de­liver a speech at the Is­raeli Mu­seum.

The pres­i­dent did step into an­other fraught sub­ject: his re­cent dis­clo­sure of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to Rus­sian diplo­mats, seem­ingly vi­o­lat­ing an in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing agree­ment with Is­rael.

Ne­tanyahu played it down, say­ing that U.S.-Is­raeli in­tel­li­gence co­op­er­a­tion is “ter­rific,” while at­tempt­ing to dis­miss concerns that the in­ci­dent vi­o­lated a con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ment. But it was an­other stark re­minder for the pres­i­dent that his trou­bles at home have fol­lowed him across the ocean.

MENAHEM KAHANA, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Don­ald Trump and Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu down­played any con­tro­versy over al­le­ga­tions the U.S. pres­i­dent dis­closed clas­si­fied in­tel­li­gence with Rus­sian diplo­mats.

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