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22 May, 2017 12:19

‘What’s the protocol?’ Trump arrives in Israel to be met by ‘friend’ Netanyahu

US President Donald Trump has landed in Israel, being welcomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the entire cabinet after the Israeli leader made it mandatory for all ministers to attend the reception, having learned that some planned to skip the ceremony.

Trump arrived at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport alongside his wife Melania, daughter and adviser Ivanka, and senior adviser Jared Kushner. The Americans were greeted on the tarmac by Netanyahu, who said “welcome, our good friend” as he shook hands with Trump. Netanyahu’s wife Sara and the US ambassador to Israel were also present, along with members of Israel's armed forces.

Trump and his entourage were met with 28C (82F) heat, prompting some to question the attire of Ivanka and Kushner.

Despite the seemingly formal welcome, it appeared that much of the procedure was off-the-cuff. Israeli PM Netanyahu confessing that “we have all this protocol, we never know what it is," Channel 2 reported.

Trump replied, “what is the protocol? You have any idea what it is?” 

"I think they'll just tell us where to stand," Netanyahu then said, according to NBC News, as the two leaders walked towards their spots to listen to the national anthem.

Trump then spoke on the tarmac, saying he "came here to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the US and Israel," Haaretz reporter Barak Ravid tweeted.

The president went on to state that "we have a rare opportunity to bring peace to this region," adding that "we love Israel and we respect Israel." He departed for Jerusalem after the ceremony.

Netanyahu made it mandatory for all ministers to attend Trump's welcome ceremony after hearing that several were planning to skip it, the Times of Israel reported, citing Army Radio and a senior official.

The desire to ditch the event came after the ministers learned they would not be included in the receiving line on the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport and would therefore not be shaking Trump's hand after he disembarked from Air Force One.

One Knesset member, Oren Hazan, failed to impress Netanyahu when he posed for a selfie with Trump.

Footage shows the Israeli PM lightly pushing his arm away, in an apparent effort to show his disapproval.

Trump's 28-hour visit to Israel and the West Bank is part of a nine-day trip through the Middle East and Europe.

"Your visit here, Mr. President, is truly historic. Never before has the first foreign trip of a president of the United States included a visit to Israel. Thank you, Mr. President," Netanyahu said in an address following Trump's arrival.

Trump's first stop will be the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected.

He is then expected to become the first sitting US President to visit the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.

Trump will meet with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday, and separately with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank on Tuesday, in an attempt to revive stalled peace talks between the two sides.

The US president has previously expressed confidence in facilitating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, stating during a meeting with Abbas earlier this month that "it is something that I think is frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years."

Although Trump has declined to elaborate on how he will approach the conflict, he showed skepticism over years of international efforts to foster a two-state solution during a February meeting with Netanyahu at the White House.

Meanwhile, Trump's stay at Jerusalem's King David Hotel is expected to be highly comfortable, at a cost of around $5,700 per night. His room will be bomb-proof, poison gas-proof, and bulletproof, the hotel's operations managed told NBC News.

Trump's arrival comes after a visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a route which might represent the first official direct flight from Saudi Arabia to Israel. The two nations have no diplomatic relations, and there are no commercial routes between the countries. Israeli airplanes are not even allowed to fly through Saudi Arabian airspace, according to Haaretz.