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Trump says Arabs and Israelis 'share common enemy' Iran

Donald Trump arrived in Tel Aviv a day after meeting with Muslim leaders [AFP]

Date of publication: 22 May, 2017

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US President says he is becoming increasingly aware of the common front that Arab and Muslim nations and Israel share against the threat of Iran.

US President Donald Trump began his first visit to Israel on Monday, saying he has observed that Muslim states and Israel share a "common cause" in confronting Iran.

Trump arrived in Tel Aviv from Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh, where he had met with leaders and representatives of over 50 Muslim countries on Sunday.

A statement following the president's first meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said there was a growing realisation that Muslim leaders share a "common cause with you [Israelis]" in their determination to defeat extremism and "the threat posed by Iran".

Trump's confrontational stance towards Iran has been greeted Tehran's regional rivals both in the Gulf and Israel, following a period of perceived appeasement during
Barack Obama's presidency. The president had repeatedly called the 2015 signing of the Iran nuclear accord, which saw the lifting of sanctions on Tehran, as the "worst deal ever".

While there may be agreement on the common stance against Iran, Trump will likely face concerns from Israel about the new $110 billion arms deal announced during his previous stop in Saudi Arabia. 

The president may also face questions from Israeli officials about revelations that he disclosed sensitive Israeli intelligence to Russian officials.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking to reporters onboard Air Force One, said the US could provide clarifications to Israel about the disclosure but said, "I don't know that there's anything to apologise for."

On the top of the president's Middle East agenda is also the rekindling of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. 

"We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and to its people," Trump said upon his arrival in Tel Aviv.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Trump "a true friend" to Israel and expressed optimism about the president’s role in the Middle East peace process.

White House aides, however, have tried to play down expectations for significant progress on the peace process during Trump's stop, casting the visit as symbolic. Tillerson referred to the visit as "a moment in time" and indicated that the US would take a more active role in future if both sides showed more committment.

Israeli officials, meanwhile, say they are largely in the dark about what ideas Trump might present for peace or what concessions he may demand. And while Netanyahu in the past has expressed support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, he has been vague about this goal since Trump gained power.

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