Melania's Slap Down and 6 Other Awkward Moments of Trump Visit in Israel

From visible tension between Trump and the first lady to a shameless Israeli lawmaker’s selfie with the leader of the Free World

Donald and Melania Trump and Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu at Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel, May 22, 2017.
Donald and Melania Trump and Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu at Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel, May 22, 2017. Screenshot

Although it lasted barely an hour, the red carpet reception for U.S. Donald Trump and his wife Melania upon their arrival in Israel was not without its awkward moments.

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Here are seven:

1. A husband scorned

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara escorted the American president and first lady across the red carpet after they left Air Force One, the tension in the air was palpable – not between the U.S. and Israeli leaders, but between Trump and his wife.

The Netanyahus walked hand in hand, but when Trump reached for his wife’s hand, she did not respond. Never one to take rejection well from a woman, Trump grabbed her hand. The first lady promptly shook it loose.

2. Protocol schmotocol

At the end of that long and uncomfortable stroll, it wasn’t clear who was supposed to stand where on the red carpet. While Sara nudged her husband to indicate that he was standing in the wrong spot, the prime minister confided to Trump: “We have all this protocol, but we never know what to do.”

“What is the protocol?” Trump asked.

“Who knows?” Netanyahu responded.

“Nobody knows,” said his wife, concluding the discussion.

3. A selfie with the president

MK Oren Hazan, a relatively new lawmaker from the Likud party, is known as a troublemaker and rabble-rouser. Any hopes he would be on his best behavior during the presidential visit were quickly dashed. As Trump made his way down the receiving line of dignitaries, after delivering a short statement upon landing at the airport, Hazan refused to suffice with a handshake. He grabbed Trump by the shoulder and, after retrieving his smartphone from his pocket, put his arm around the president and proceeded to take a selfie. Netanyahu, who was a bit ahead of Trump in the line, turned around to see what was holding the president up. Since his back was to the camera, we can only imagine the look on his face toward his fellow MK.

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4. Forget about subtlety

The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That didn’t stop Education Minister Naftali Bennett – chairman of the settler-affiliated Habayit Hayehudi party – from trying to elicit a statement from the U.S. president on the matter as he made his way down the receiving line. While others preferred exchanging niceties and keeping the conversation light, Bennett got straight to the point. In honor of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the unification of Jerusalem, he told the president, “We expect you to be the first president to recognize Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.” Trump’s comeback: “That’s an idea.”

5. Birds of a feather

Sara Netanyahu had probably not intended her words for mass consumption. But an informal exchange between the American and Israeli leaders and their spouses, caught on camera after the welcoming ceremony, revealed a lot about how she and her husband view the media – and themselves. And also how much they love the Trumps. As the Netanyahus escorted the Trumps back to Air Force One, the American president told the Israeli premier the first lady was a big fan of his wife’s. “I love her. I’m also her fan,” said Sara in response. “I talk every place about her, how great she is, how great you are.”

“I can attest to that,” Netanyahu interjected, to which his wife added: “Because the majority of people, unlike the media, love us. So they love you, too. We have very much in common.”

6. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story

About 90 minutes after police concluded that a car ramming in Tel Aviv was an accident, not a terror attack, Trump found himself facing Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in the line of dignitaries. By this point, Erdan must have been aware the police investigation had been concluded, but that didn’t stop him trying to win some sympathy points with the U.S. president. “You know it’s possible that today it was also a terror attack,” Erdan told Trump. Netanyahu, who was standing nearby, also played dumb. “It could happen in Tel Aviv or in Times Square,” he told the president.

7. The foursome handshake

The photo was Netanyahu’s idea. As he and his wife escorted Trump and the first lady back to Air Force One, the prime minister stopped in his tracks and raised the following suggestion: “Why don’t we all cross our hands for a photo?” he asked. Judging from the number of shares on social media, it turned out to be a brilliant idea.

We have crystal balls too, Saudi Arabia
Haaretz
Trump, Egypt's al-Sissi, Saudi King Salman and Melania Trump in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 21, 2017.
Uncredited/AP