The US president’s foreign tour has underlined how inadequate his art of the deal is when handling relations between states

Just over halfway through his first foreign trip as US president this week, Donald Trump tweeted a typically modest assessment of his progress: “Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East were great. Trying hard for PEACE. Doing well.”

In a Trumpian context, that is perhaps closer to the mark than is usual for his pronouncements. The photo opportunities and soundbites have been a useful distraction from domestic woes: first, the mounting questions over his campaign’s relations with Russia. Second, a budget which is extreme and punitive towards poorer Americans and marked out by its highly questionable accounting. On the initial leg of his trip he avoided terrible errors – partly by avoiding press conferences – though his verdict on the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem (“so amazing”) was grotesque. He replaced his vicious portrayal of Islam as a religion of hatred with a tribute to “one of the world’s great faiths”.

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