From Riyadh to Tel Aviv: Trump's Middle East trip

During his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories at the end of his Middle East trip US President Donald Trump announced that the US is committed to reaching a peace agreement between the conflicting parties. Europe's commentators criticise the lack of concrete proposals and his avoidance of the more controversial issues.

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Gândul (RO) /

A president completely lacking in ideas

Meeting with President Trump, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas once again called for an independent Palestinian state. But Trump had little of any significance to say, Gândul comments:

“Donald Trump persistently avoided addressing even one of the several sticking points in Israeli-Palestinian relations. As the Israeli press was quick to comment, he didn't even dare mention the words 'two states' or 'settlements'. He left the region without conveying any idea, however vague, about what a solution might look like or how it could be achieved. Compare that with his announcement that he would reach a quick solution. ... It's hard to say what sort of a welcome awaits Trump at home, and whether the 'colossal success' of this trip can alleviate his domestic problems. But knowing the Israeli prime minister [Netanyahu], he's no doubt already making emergency plans and preparing for a scenario in which [US Vice President] Mike Pence takes over as president.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

No sign of a peace plan

Rather than bringing any hope of peace Trump's trip comes as yet another disappointment for the Palestinians, De Volkskrant believes:

“The American president said he wanted to help find an agreement on the condition that both parties genuinely seek peace and are ready to take 'tough decisions'. That's not much. After Trump's two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, there's no sign of an American peace plan. His most passionate words were on the subject of terrorism and Iran.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Onwards to the past

Handelsblatt doesn't believe that Trump will become the Middle East's peacemaker:

“The US president has come to the crisis region without a new strategy and is relying on the old coalition of the status quo. Whereas Obama wanted to give the 'Arab Spring' a helping hand, Trump is getting ready for a long political winter in the region. ... His administration is putting its money on the old alliances - with autocrats in Saudi Arabia and Egypt on the one side and Netanyahu's right-wing Likud bloc on the other. This is the very same coalition of the status quo that has prevented lasting peace in the Middle East for many years. Trump wants to send a signal with this early visit to the crisis region. But if you look closely you see that this signal is pointing to the past.”

Causeur (FR) /

Strategy lacks credibility

The US's Middle East policy remains contradictory under Trump, security and defence expert Hadrien Desuin writes in Causeur:

“The Saudi Arabians and Israelis were very worried about the negotiations on Iran's nuclear programme. And so was Trump, who incidentally did not congratulate the 'moderate' Rouhani on his re-election as president. On the contrary, he organised his trip to Riyadh the day after Rouhani's victory. This coincidence is worrying. The first contacts between crown prince bin Salman and the president were very positive, and they will no doubt stay that way. ... Donald Trump is sticking to the US's schizophrenic policy: preaching American values to the Middle East on the one hand, and continuing the sacred military-industrial alliance with the region's most backward-looking regime on the other. If what Trump wants is to encourage moderate Islam, making Riyadh, the world's Salafist capital, his first destination is not a credible move.”

Karar (TR) /

The visit stinks to high heaven

President Trump briefly joined in a traditional sword dance in Riyadh on Saturday. But this jovial image can't dispel the bitter taste of the weapons deal, Karar writes:

“What will happen with the weapons? Against which enemies will the Saudis use them, together with the thousands of weapons and fighter jets they've already bought in the past? ... Has the politician who banned the inhabitants of certain Islamic countries from coming to America now come to the country where Islam was born to collect money and swing a sword around? ... If anything stinks, it's this. Weapons and military aircraft with no other function than to keep the weapons industry alive, and which everyone knows will be left to rust in depots in the buyer countries: something really stinks here.”

To Vima (GR) /

A historical offer of reconciliation

Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia is a big step forward, To Vima counters:

“Nothing like this has ever happened before. Trump has invited the leaders of Muslim and Arab states to cooperate in the fight against Islamic terrorism, and refused to allow terrorism to fan hostility between nations and peoples. ... His appeal has been very positively received by his listeners, and the Saudi king will give his country a key role in this battle. Relations between these countries and the West appear to be entering a completely new phase, and that is the only way to achieve a balance and create the conditions for fighting Islamic terrorism effectively. Even the unprecedented business and arms deals between the US and Saudi Arabia are an important step in this direction.”

Al-Ahram (EG) /

An alliance with obstacles

The success of the alliance forged in Riyadh depends on several factors, the state-run Egyptian daily Al-Ahram observes:

“First we would like to know to what extent we can rely on the Americans. All too often in the past we have built our expectations on sand. … Secondly, the Arab-Islamic-American alliance or cooperation needs to set priorities. When we talk about fighting terrorism it can't be done without finding a definitive solution to the Palestinian conflict. … Is the US willing to exert pressure on Israel and adopt a neutral stance in the conflict? Just as the US sees Iran as a danger to security and stability in the Middle East, it should realise that Israel is no less a threat. … Thirdly, it's time for the Arabs and Muslims to put the screws on in international relations. They are certainly not weak and should not confine themselves to always executing the plans of the influential and powerful countries.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Dangerous arms deal

The US's arms deal with the Gulf monarchy could lead to a dangerous escalation of the conflicts in the Middle East, Adevărul criticises:

“Saudi Arabia, in the hands of the Americans, has thus become the undisputed leader of the entire Sunni world which can now engage in an all-out religious war against its traditional enemies - the Shiites - most of whom live in Iran. ... But a military strike against Iran could lead to the existing borders being redefined. Wouldn't that call into question all the international agreements and above all remove the old guarantors (the Western European powers) from the equation? And wouldn't that force Russia to bury its old dream of gaining access to the strategic Gulf zone via Iran?”

Irish Independent (IE) /

A condescending speech

The Irish Independent takes a closer look at the US President's speech in Riyadh:

“After inventing 'fake news', America's crazed president gave the world's Muslims a fake speech. Donald Trump said he was not in Saudi Arabia to 'lecture' - but then told the world's Islamic preachers what to do, condemned 'Islamist terrorism' as if violence was a solely Muslim phenomenon, and then announced like an Old Testament prophet that he was in 'a battle between good and evil'. There were no words of compassion, none of mercy, absolutely not a word of apology for his racist, anti-Muslim speeches of last year. Even more incredibly, he blamed Iran - rather than Isil - for 'fuelling sectarian violence' ... a day after they had freely elected a liberal reformer as their president.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

EU must help Iran

Now that President Trump has come down on the side of Saudi Arabia the EU must seek a balance by honouring its agreements with Iran, the Tages-Anzeiger believes:

“Whereas under Obama the US tended to be impartial and avoided getting involved in the political conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, Trump and his team want to isolate and contain Iran. In such a situation Europe must play a mediating role even if it lacks the hard power to do so. That involves adhering to the nuclear agreement with Iran just as much as maintaining good relations on both sides of the Gulf. Saudi Arabia and Iran are difficult partners, but they are indispensable for finding a solution to the conflicts in the region. Only those who engage in serious discussion with both sides can help to avert the growing danger of a confrontation.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Hope for Israel and Palestine

A solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is perhaps a step closer under Trump, Ran Halévi, a historian at the French research institute CNRS, writes in Le Figaro:

“By the looks of things the Trump administration is determined to act. It knows that a definitive accord is not within reach, even if all the protagonists have long known more or less what it should look like. But at least it wants to create the conditions for leading the peace process out of the explosive impasse it now finds itself in. Apparently Trump doesn't want to impose any sort of roadmap, and instead expects the two protagonists to present proposals, show that they are open to dialogue, and above all demonstrate the will to find a solution. ... Although Donald Trump might not reach the end of his mandate, it is not to be ruled out that this versatile and unpredictable man could preside over a historic breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”