President Donald Trump will head to Israel next week for his first foreign trip as head of state.
He will visit a key ally in a tumultuous region where peacemaking has been a presidential prerogative for decades - even as recent efforts have progressed in fits and starts.
Ambassador Judith Varnai Shorer, consul general of Israel to seven U.S. states, including Tennessee, has some good advice for the American commander-in-chief before jumping into Middle East peace talks: "Listen."
"Listen to what each of the sides have to say," she said, during a visit to The Tennessean on Tuesday. "Don't rush into conclusions ... It's not in one day that you can achieve a peace agreement. It takes time."
The senior diplomat was traveling through Tennessee, where she was meeting with Jewish communities across the state, attending events and visited with Gov. Bill Haslam.
Despite her sage counsel, Trump has proven again and again that he is not a listener. He is a talker and a Twitterer who has espoused that complex problems can be solved easily - until they can't be.
He expected a quick repeal-and-replace for the Affordable Care Act, until he was compelled to say: "Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated."
Peace in the Middle East will also be complicated.
There are competing interests, disputes over territory and natural resources, and terrorism. Some groups have challenged Israel's right to exist. Israel has been criticized for human rights abuses in Palestinian areas.
The Trump Administration did not help itself with two recent incidents that have strained U.S.-Israeli relations:
1. A U.S. official's comment to the Israeli government that the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism, was not Israeli territory and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not accompany Trump during his visit there.
2. Leaks that Trump shared intelligence obtained from Israel during a meeting with top Russian diplomats.
Varnai Shorer acknowledged that this could distract from Trump's visit to Israel, saying about the Western Wall comment: "I think that when you prepare a visit of such a magnitude, there is no room for such politicization. We have enough."
However, she gave his administration credit for bringing the United States "back in the game" after it launched missiles at a Syrian air base and dropped the "mother of all bombs" on caves in Afghanistan, showing a willingness to punish bad actors. It was a not-so-subtle criticism of the Obama Administration positions after "red lines" had been crossed.
The ambassador urged Trump to rely on the experience and knowledge of people on all sides who have been at the negotiating table for more than 30 years.
"Reignite it from where it stopped; don't start from the beginning," she said.
Sound counsel: Less talking and tweeting, more listening and learning.
That advice may help Trump achieve a successful trip and avoid a diplomatic incident abroad.
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