F or Mahmoud Abbas, it’s not like the old days. During the Obama years, the Palestinian leader was given the royal treatment, greeted at the White House as the peacemaker who would remake the new Middle East. With his Iran deal in place, Obama all but anointed Abbas the prime minister of the new state of Palestine.

How things change. Abbas’s visit last week to President Trump was more subdued. Used to live media coverage of his entrance at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Abbas instead played second fiddle to live coverage of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing where FBI director James Comey explained his decision to initiate a probe into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server 11 days before the presidential election.

The major networks broke away from Comey’s testimony just long enough to show Abbas arriving at the White House and exchanging a warm handshake before disappearing inside. During their joint appearance, Trump praised Abbas as a peacemaker, but also warned him about promoting violence.

Further indication of Abbas’s fall from the heights came during Sean Spicer’s press briefing later that day. It took 30 minutes before a reporter asked a question about the meeting, and even then most others chimed in mostly to express skepticism that Trump would find peacemaking in the Middle East as easy as he suggested. The press corps was much more interested in other pressing matters of the day, including the repeal of Obamacare and an agreement to keep the government running for the rest of 2017.

But as with all things Trump, we’ll only know what his true intentions are when we see them. One day after the Trump-Abbas tête-à-tête, the White House announced that the president’s first foreign trip would take him to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican. According to a senior White House official who spoke to Mishpacha, it’s no accident that Trump will be setting his wheels down in the capitals of the world’s three major religions. “The purpose of this [visit] is to bring together all the different countries and all the different religions in the fight against intolerance and to defeat radicalism,” the official said.

According to the official, Saudi Arabia initiated the idea for the visit shortly after Trump’s election as a means to reset relations between the two nations. Since then, Trump has proposed joining forces with Saudi Arabia to develop both short-term and long-term strategies to fight radicals, including ISIS and Iran.

When Obama was president, the official said, Israel was blamed for the majority of the region’s problems. But the Trump administration sees things differently, instead casting radical jihadists like ISIS, Salafists, and Iran as the main causes of destabilization in the Middle East. That change of view has spawned opportunities to foster new alliances and probe new paths to peace.

“We hope this trip will lay the foundations for further meetings as well as foster a climate of enhanced regional security, economic growth, and religious freedom,” the official said.

In Israel, the official said, Trump’s goal is to “ratify [America’s] strong bond with the people of Israel. We will discuss ways to promote peace, and to strengthen the ties between us to advance that cause.”

The official declined to say whether the administration was working to broker a meeting between Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, only suggesting that the Trump administration is “working to advance the cause of peace.”

When asked if Trump could meet with other regional leaders on this trip, the official said: “Especially with this president, anything is possible, and everything is subject to change.” (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 659)