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Trump Cancels Visit to Ancient Masada Site after Israel Refuses Helicopter Landing
May 18 at 4:13 PM

President Donald Trump has canceled a planned visit and speech at the ancient mountain fortress of Masada in Israel after authorities told him that he could not land his helicopter on top of the UNESCO-listed site.

Instead, Trump will now deliver a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It comes after an Israeli Air Force (IAF) regulation that prevents helicopters landing at the summit of the Masada site, according to Israel’s Channel 2 broadcaster.

Unlike former presidents who have made the trip, such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Trump declined to land the helicopter at a base of the historic site and then take the cable car up, preferring to cancel the visit altogether.

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The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment, referring any matters involving Trump’s schedule to the U.S. government. The Israeli Foreign Ministry also declined to comment on Trump’s schedule.

The reason for the regulation is that helicopters on approach create dust, making landing at the desert site 1,300 feet above sea level precarious. On a previous 1997 landing by the IAF in the middle of Masada, the wind created by the helicopter caused damage to the ruins, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage site that the cultural agency calls a creation of “majestic beauty,” is built upon a mountain overlooking the shores of the Dead Sea in southern Israel’s Judean desert, some 60 miles southeast of Jerusalem. It is one of the country’s archaeological wonders.

Masada helicopter
A U.S. presidential helicopter flies over the Judean desert on the way to the hilltop fortress of Masada on May 15, 2008. Trump has canceled his visit to the site after Israel said he could not land his helicopter on top of the site. 

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

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King Herod is believed to have built the fortress, but its defining story is that its Jewish rebel defenders who—under threat from a Roman siege—killed themselves rather than be captured alive by the invading forces some time between 73 and 74 AD.

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News of the president’s cancellation stirred reactions among observers of the American-Israeli relationship and officials inside the country. “Well Masada was too hot, so we found a great spot instead for POTUS,” Eitan Weiss, deputy spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry tweeted, appearing to mock the reason for the cancellation. “@IsraelMuseum. The Dead Sea Scrolls make an important setting.”

Another Twitter user joked : “Trump is going to move the U.S. embassy to Masada,” referencing the consideration the president is giving to moving Washington’s diplomatic representation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, tweeted that a raft of decisions on the Trump administration in regard to the visit has “soured” Israel’s mood. As well as the Masada cancellation, Trump will only spend 15 minutes at the national Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, a move likely to offend the Israelis.

Masada
An aerial photo taken on May 13, 2008 shows the ancient hilltop fortress of Masada in the Judean desert. 

Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty

Ahead of the visit, a member of Trump’s diplomatic staff told the Israelis that the Western Wall was in the West Bank and they did not want Netanyahu to accompany Trump on his visit to the site. The declaration sparked Israel’s anger and a call from the government for an explanation from the White House, which subsequently said that this was not Trump’s position.

It will be the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to the Western Wall (Barack Obama only visited the site as a presidential candidate).

Israel considers the site to be the nearest to the holiest landmark in Judaism—the Temple Mount—where Israelis can pray, to be part of Jerusalem and, therefore, Israel. Jews cannot pray at the Temple Mount, which is controled by a Jordanian-Palestinian Islamic Waqf, or trust.

But the wall sits in the old city of East Jerusalem, a territory Israel occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War, and therefore land that much of the international community, including the U.S., does not recognize as Israel’s.

George Bush at Masada
U.S. President George W. Bush (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (L) rest during a tour to the ancient hilltop fortress of Masada on May 15, 2008 in the Judean Desert, southern Israel. 

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty


Replies

  • cgd5112
    by cgd5112
    May 18 at 4:35 PM

    ..."...a raft of decisions on the Trump administration in regard to the visit has “soured” Israel’s mood." ...

    Surprise, surpise, surprise!  Did Netanyahu really think he was in with tRUMP?  That his loyalty was first and foremeost to Israel over Pooty?  What did Netanyahu say?  It was long overdue?  

    Meanwhile his supporters were all in love w Israel... We'll see how long that lasts ...

    Meanwhile, he couldn't ride the cable car like everyone else?  What a primadonna ... 




  • cynnie22
    May 18 at 4:35 PM

    I'm surprised Isreal still tolerated the visit after the intell issue.

  • Bookwormy
    May 18 at 4:44 PM
    Israel needs US money. They literally can't afford to reject us.

    Quoting cynnie22:

    I'm surprised Isreal still tolerated the visit after the intell issue.

  • Bookwormy
    May 18 at 4:49 PM
    I am in no way a traditional zionist. But I'm a realist. Israel ain't going anywhere, even if the initial creation was crazy cake pops. Obama should have visited as POTUS prior to Perez's death. Trump needs to get his shit together. Can't make peace if you are a dick.
  • coolmommy2x
    May 18 at 4:57 PM
    Wasn't it noted before that he's afraid of heights? Or stairs or something like that? If so, I could see him not wanting to take the cable car. I'm not afraid of heights but I know some people who are and it can be crippling.
  • Seafaith
    May 18 at 5:25 PM

    And the cry baby man child strikes again. If I can't have my way I won't go. BooHoo.

    toddler tantrum

  • margaritaylor
    May 18 at 5:31 PM

    100% what I was going to say.

    Quoting Bookwormy: Israel needs US money. They literally can't afford to reject us.
    Quoting cynnie22:

    I'm surprised Isreal still tolerated the visit after the intell issue.


  • cynnie22
    May 18 at 6:33 PM
    I didn't know that. I thought he was just a germaphobe. Seems to have a lot of phobias.

    Quoting coolmommy2x: Wasn't it noted before that he's afraid of heights? Or stairs or something like that? If so, I could see him not wanting to take the cable car. I'm not afraid of heights but I know some people who are and it can be crippling.
  • SuG4
    by SuG4
    May 18 at 6:40 PM
    But if the helicopter landed on top of the mountain? Um.......?

    Quoting coolmommy2x: Wasn't it noted before that he's afraid of heights? Or stairs or something like that? If so, I could see him not wanting to take the cable car. I'm not afraid of heights but I know some people who are and it can be crippling.
  • cynnie22
    May 18 at 6:54 PM
    I really don't get why we support them so much.

    Quoting Bookwormy: Israel needs US money. They literally can't afford to reject us.

    Quoting cynnie22:

    I'm surprised Isreal still tolerated the visit after the intell issue.

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