US President Donald Trump (L) and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after delivering press statements before an official diner in...
Mandel Ngan

Donald Trump makes the wrong impression at Yad Vashem

When American presidents travel abroad, especially for the first time, they make a lasting impression. Yesterday, for example, Donald Trump raised more than a few eyebrows with some inexplicable comments about Israeli intelligence, which he soon after followed up by suggesting Israel isn’t in the Middle East.

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Today, Trump visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s principal Holocaust memorial and museum – the American president scheduled a brief visit, that did not include a tour of the museum – and did little to improve upon yesterday’s showing.
President Trump’s message in a guestbook at Israel’s main Holocaust memorial and museum has drawn some ridicule for its failure to demonstrate sensitivity to the atrocities memorialized at the site.

“It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends - so amazing + will never forget!” Trump wrote during his visit to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, today.
Raoul Wootliff, a reporter for the Times of Israel, posted on Twitter, “He forgot: ‘See you next summer.’”

It wasn’t long before observers started comparing Trump’s “so amazing” message with the one Barack Obama left when he visited the memorial in July 2008.

“I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all of those responsible for this remarkable institution,” Obama’s note in the guest book read. “At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man’s potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world.”

Obama’s message continued: “Let our children come here, and know this history, so that they can add their voices to proclaim ‘never again.’ And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit.”

My point isn’t to mock Trump’s obvious limitations, but rather, to emphasize that moments like these make a difference. The fact that Americans elected an inexperienced television personality to the nation’s highest office meant Trump started his presidency with a credibility deficit, especially abroad. Politico last week quoted a German observer who said of the American president, “People here think Trump is a laughingstock.”

With so much ground to make up, Trump has to work to be taken seriously on the international stage. Today made that task more difficult.

Diplomacy, Donald Trump and Israel

Donald Trump makes the wrong impression at Yad Vashem