Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Trump can't land helicopter on ancient fortress, cancels visit

Trump can't land helicopter on ancient fortress, cancels visit

President Trump apparently changed his mind about delivering a speech at a UNESCO World Heritage site in Israel after he learned he couldn't land his helicopter there, Newsweek reported Thursday.

Trump had originally meant to give his keynote speech at Masada but the visit was cancelled.

The president refused to land his helicopter at the base of the historic site and take a cable vehicle up as former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had done, Newsweek reported, citing Israel's Channel 2.

Landings on Masada's summit have been banned since 1997 when an Israeli Air Force helicopter carrying then U.S. Air Force Commander Gen. Michael Ryan damaged the ruins, said the Jerusalem Post.

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.

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The plans for the visit have also drawn criticism, because only 15 minutes are allocated to visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum, and because a senior US official harshly rebuffed a request that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu come with Trump to visit the Western Wall, Channel 2 reported.

Israeli media outlets reported that Trump had been scheduled to give his main speech on the Israeli leg of his upcoming trip overseas at the UNESCO World Heritage site.

Masada helicopter A US presidential helicopter flies over the Judean desert on the way to the hilltop fortress of Masada on May 15, 2008.

Trump will no longer visit Masada on Monday after authorities told him that he could not land his helicopter there, Newsweek reported, citing Israel's Channel 2.

The ancient site became a symbol of Jewish heroism after dozens of Jews - 960 in total - there chose to kill themselves, rather than surrender to the Romans in 70 AD.

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The former president and Netanyahu had a fraught relationship during his term because of stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Initial reports indicated that the reason for the cancellation was the hot weather at Masada. USA does not consider the West Bank a part of Israeli land. He will pay a brief visit to Yad Vashem and the Israel Museum.

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.

This announcement left Netanyahu's angry and White House officials had to reiterate that this was not Trump's position.

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

The Masada is one of Israel's most important historic sites.

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