May 23, 2017
Barely 24 hours earlier, Donald Trump had stood in the company of the world's Muslim leaders and declared, "If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen." And late Monday night, to everyone's horror, it did. In a terrifying scene at the Manchester Arena, the president's words played out in the worst attack on British soil in 12 years. In an instant, the lives of hundreds of people were changed forever -- casualties of the unspeakable evil making its slow march across Europe.
Biding his time until the last song at the Ariana Grande concert, a suicide bomber walked slowly to the foyer and detonated, slaughtering 22 innocent people and wounding or violently amputating 120 more. Like a horror movie, the crowd moved through the chaos of blood-splattered floors desperately looking for their loved ones. "I saw children hysterically crying and panicking. One man was carrying a young girl in his arms," said one eyewitness. A homeless man, compelled to head back into danger, held an injured woman until she died. "I haven't stopped crying," he said. His heart, like the rest of the Western world's, was in a familiar state: shattered.
Even today, parents are frantically searching for their missing teenagers as the president's words come hauntingly back: "Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered." It was a sober exclamation point on an otherwise historic trip for Trump, who was the first sitting president to fly from Saudi Arabia to Israel. Standing next to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Trump didn't mince words. "The terrorists and extremists and those who give them aid and comfort must be driven out from our society forever. This wicked ideology must be obliterated." It was a bold statement considering the tension with Abbas's "government", which has financed its own share of senseless violence. "Can you imagine growing up in a country where your government will pay you for killing someone else through a terrorist act?" Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. But that's the uncomfortable reality of the Palestinian Authority.
Still, Trump and Abbas seemed to have a productive meeting in which the Palestinian leader pledged to "keep the door open" to talks with Israel. "It's not easy," President Trump said of the elusive peace both sides are seeking. "I've heard it's one of the toughest deals of all." To most people, though, the highlight of the trip was Trump's visit to the Holy Land, where he started rebuilding the bridge burned by eight years of Obama's hostility. Being on the receiving end of years of insults, hot mics, and devastating policies hasn't exactly been a picnic for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Now, with a friend in the White House, America's greatest ally can get back to national security problem-solving with its U.S. friends. "We understand each other," Netanyahu said of Trump. And, more than that, they respect each other -- an ingredient that was clearly missing from the rocky Obama-Netanyahu years.
In private and public moments, Trump was a walking contrast from his predecessor. At the Western Wall, cameras snapped pictures of the solemn visit -- the first ever by a sitting president. He stood silently, tucking a prayer deep in one of the Wall's cracks. Afterward, he had heartfelt words for the country so often overlooked by the last administration.
"On my first trip overseas as president, I have come to the sacred and ancient land to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and the state of Israel." A bond that, fortunately, has withstood the severest of tests. "There may not have been a ram's horn," Michael Rosen pointed out, "but Trump's visit -- setting aside politics and scandals -- boldly heralded Israel's return."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.