President Donald Trump’s first trip overseas has received very little coverage in American media.
Yet, Trump is making America great again, even if not in the way he envisaged on the campaign trail last year.
Like many Trump supporters, the idea of this trip filled me with dread. Because of the media and political bias, including from his own party, we assumed that every other country would find him contemptible.
However, that was not the case.
Dr Walid Phares, a Fox commentator and national security expert, said that this trip took months to plan — before Trump won the election. Egypt’s president al-Sisi was instrumental in getting the ball rolling.
Trump and al-Sisi have a mutual admiration for each other, which they voiced once again at the Arab Islamic American Summit — the Riyadh Summit — which took place on Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21, 2017. The summit’s slogan was ‘Together We Prevail’.
Al-Sisi told Egypt Daily News that Trump was the man who gets things done:
… In response to a question about efforts to revive long-stalled negotiations between Palestine and Israel, El-Sisi said that Trump is the “decisive player” in this matter.
“I believe he does not take time in resolving matters he’s a capable person who does not work like others,” he said. The president also said that the country’s counter-terrorism situation “has significantly improved.”
The Saudi king presented the American president with the highest civilian honour, the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, at the royal palace. The Arab News reported that only other non-Islamic leaders this has been given to are:
Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
The king gave the Trumps a sumptuous lunch, which Arab News said was:
replete with cuisines from around the world.
The Saudis were respectful of Melania and Ivanka Trump, treating them as a queen and a princess, respectively.
The summit progressed smoothly and harmoniously. Fifty-five of the 57 Islamic nations — see the list — sent representatives to discuss with President Trump how they could prevent the spread of extremist ideology.
In addition to the scheduled meetings comprising the summit, Trump met separately with the Emir of Kuwait, the Emir of Qatar, the President of Egypt and the King of Bahrain. He also held a private meeting with the President of Afghanistan. The White House issued a brief statement.
On the second day, Trump gave an empathetic yet hard-hitting 34-minute speech, excerpts of which follow:
This region should not be a place from which refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock …
Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.
If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen. Terrorism’s devastation of life will continue to spread. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered …
This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations.
This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.
This is a battle between Good and Evil.
Who among the attendees could have imagined that the Manchester attack was only one day away, proving Trump’s words.
How fitting that, upon hearing of the Manchester attack, Trump pronounced the suicide bomber and his accomplice(s) as ‘evil losers’. We can but hope that expression gains as much traction as ‘Crooked Hillary’ and ‘Lyin’ Ted’ did in 2016.
The Israeli leg of Trump’s tour on Monday and Tuesday, May 22 and 23, was much more low-key. That said, the Trumps — as well as the Kushners — have such a long-standing relationship with the Netanyahus that their palpable warmth more than made up for the lack of glitz.
Although I can’t access the article because of a paywall, the Boston Globe reported that Bibi, in a witty reference to the Saudis, greeted Trump at his home on Monday evening with this:
Welcome to my palace. I had the walls painted for your visit.
Earlier that day, Trump made history by being the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall. The Trumps and the Kushners were visibly moved by paying their respects. Trump inserted a prayer request in the wall. They also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Trump and Netanyahu gave a joint press conference in the afternoon. There were smiles and handshakes all around afterwards.
Mr and Mrs Trump then went to the prime minister’s residence for dinner, prepared by a celebrity chef.
On Tuesday, Trump spent the morning with Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. It was during their joint press conference that the US president remarked on the Manchester bombing:
President Trump blasts those responsible in Manchester terror attack as ‘evil losers’.
What an apposite location to make that statement.
The afternoon concluded back in Israel with a tour of Yad Vashem where he and Melania placed a memorial wreath. Trump gave a speech in which he said:
This place and this entire nation are a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.
Tuesday’s front pages in the Israeli press were most favourable, showing the US president at the Western Wall. The words ‘friend’ and ‘ally’ appeared in the headlines.
The Saudis and the Israelis could not have been more gracious to President Trump, his wife and their entourage. What a welcome change from what he has been enduring at home.
Meanwhile, American media were largely focussed on James Comey, impeachment and Trump’s utter failure as president.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Trump makes more overseas trips, for which he will be pilloried. At least they serve as a soothing balm.
I haven’t read of a foreign leader yet who has met Trump and hasn’t enjoyed being in his company.
How pathetic of American media — and their Western European counterparts — to treat him with such contempt.