(Adds details on arms deal, extremism)
By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON May 17 President Donald Trump will
not use his upcoming trip to Israel to announce plans to move
the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, although he still
ultimately wants to take that step, a senior administration
official said on Wednesday.
The official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of
anonymity, said the Trump administration does not want to
complicate attempts to resume the Israeli-Palestinian peace
process by announcing the embassy move.
Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its eternal and
indivisible capital and wants all foreign countries to base
their embassies there. The relocation is strongly opposed by
many U.S. allies given that Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as
The trip is Trump's first outing abroad as president and it
will include the announcement of a U.S. arms deal with Saudi
Arabia, Saudi investment in U.S. infrastructure and the
establishment of a center to combat Islamic extremism in Riyadh,
the official said.
Since taking office in January, Trump has shown signs of
shelving his campaign pledge to move the embassy from Tel Aviv,
while vowing to do what is necessary to clinch a Middle East
The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity,
said Trump remains committed to his campaign pledge to
ultimately relocate the U.S. embassy but does not plan to
announce such a move while on his trip.
"We're having very good discussions with all parties and as
long as we see that happening, then we don’t intend to do
anything that we think could upset those discussions," the
Since both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have expressed interest in
returning to the negotiating table, "we don't think it’s the
right time to do it right now," the official said. "But we’ll
re-evaluate it down the road."
A three-way meeting between Trump, Netanyahu and Abbas is
not expected during the trip.
During a trip to Saudi Arabia that begins with his arrival
in Riyadh on Saturday, Trump will express support for forming a
NATO-like force for the Middle East, backed by Gulf states, the
Saudi Arabia has in the past proposed a stronger union with
Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, but
it has yet to come to fruition. Forming a joint Gulf country
military alliance has been discussed for many years in the
region. The idea of a joint military command center was first
announced in 2012.
Despite the similarities of the Gulf monarchies, they have
diverging regional outlooks, economies and political systems.
Past attempts at establishing regional missile defenses have
stumbled due to strains within the six-nation Gulf Cooperation
An arms deal is to be announced during Trump's trip in which
Saudi Arabia will purchase $100 billion in U.S. arms, the
official said. The deal could lead to purchases of $300 billion
over 10 years and could reach $350 billion to help Riyadh
counter Iran in the region, the official said.
Saudi Arabia also is expected to invest $40 billion in
American infrastructure as part of the package, the official
Trump and the Gulf allies will launch a center for
countering extremism that will aim to fight the long-term
ideological battle to counter extremism and promote moderate
Islam, the official said.
Critics of the Saudi kingdom say the government does not do
enough to prevent the teachings of some of its
ultra-conservative clergy from fanning militancy overseas as
well as a domestic security threat at home. The senior clergy
have denounced militant Islamic doctrines, such as those of al
Qaeda or Islamic State, but still preach intolerant views.
An effort is being made to get the states to agree to outlaw
funding for extremist organizations, the official said.
Human rights will not take center stage at his meetings. The
official said Trump preferred to keep such conversations
private, much as he did with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah
al-Sisi recently when he obtained the release of an
Egyptian-American humanitarian worker, the official said.
While at the Group of Seven summit in Sicily later in the
month, Trump will hear out European leaders concerned that he
might withdraw the United States from the Paris climate
agreement, the official said.
The official said Trump still feels the accord is a bad deal
for the American economy.
(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Bill Trott
and Yara Bayoumy)