JERUSALEM — Most of the so-called experts on the long search for peace between Israel and the Palestinians say there is little chance that President Trump will break new ground in the bitter conflict when he arrives in Jerusalem on Monday.
As it turns out, ordinary Jews and Muslims here are even more cynical.
But if one is looking for a sliver of hope in the region, these same citizens welcome Trump to try his best and they are waiting to hear what he says.
Many confessed that they — alongside officials on both sides — have no real idea where Trump is going with this, beside his repeated claims that he might be able to make “the deal of the century” and that ending years of terrorism and occupation might not be as hard as many think.
“I don’t think anyone can fix whatever is wrong here, but he is so weird that he might have something,” said Noga Perry, strolling down the street with a pair of headphones on.
Perry, a Jewish Israeli, added: “I have no way of knowing what the hell he will do … but maybe he will have something that is crazy enough to work.”
Taweek Ibrahim, a Palestinian, was just hoping Trump would not add more difficulties.
The list of flash points include expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, lone wolf-style Palestinian attacks and Israeli reprisals and Trump’s campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a city that Palestinians want a piece of for their future state.
“He’s not going to do anything positive for us,” said Irbrahim, a Palestinian Muslim and mechanic from East Jerusalem, who was shopping for household items with his wife and children. “Maybe positive for the Jews. But we hope nothing negative for us.”
His wife, Heba, added: “Well, he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, so there’s that. We are skeptical.”
In Saudi Arabia on Sunday, Trump said that his current trip to the Middle East and Europe seeks to bring the three faiths of Islam, Christianity and Judaism into greater alliance against extremism.
“If these three faiths can join, peace in this world is possible, including peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” he said.
President Obama’s last effort to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis fell apart in 2014, with both sides blaming the other for the impasse. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have pressed for a “two-state solution” with a sovereign Palestinian nation the goal. Trump has not signaled how he wants to proceed.
Judith Turgeman, a Jewish Israeli shopper down the street, lugging groceries, said “it’s a lot more complicated than Trump thinks. It’s been going on for a 100 years. We’ll see.”
An Israeli with gray whiskers and a Jewish skullcap named Yakov, who was getting his automobile fixed, appeared pleased the Trump would at least make an effort at rekindling peace efforts.
“He will try. Okay? Good for him,” he said. “He’s a very optimistic guy. He’s not the first, he won’t be the last to try. I like him.”
He declined to give his last name, waving his cigarette, said: “Ugg, politics!”
Huda Ghahnam, a social sciences university student from a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, said: “It’s good for Trump to come see how the Palestinians live. Maybe something good will come but maybe something bad.”
She acknowledged that it was hard to imagine any U.S. president taking the side of Palestinians and Muslims over Israelis and Jews.
“The Americans,” she said, “are part of the conflict.”
Rina Shalev, a Jewish Israeli woman in sunglasses, said much depends on how the Palestinians respond to any new overtures.
“We hope that it will enter their heads that there are two countries, that there are Jews or Palestinians, Arabs or whatever they call themselves,” she said. “We live together with them so well in this country but there are some extremists that want everything. We want peace and want to live together.”
Nader Nasser Adin, dressed in a suit and smoking cigarette standing outside a grill, said that all the U.S. presidents since “the catastrophe” of 1948 — when Israel was created — “have done nothing for the benefit of the Palestinians. The president will not do anything now and they will not do anything in 30 years from now.”
Adin added: “The United States only looks out for its own best interests and all they want to do is plant a thorn in the Middle East and control this thorn.”
Sufian Taha contributed to this report.