Trump's 1989 trip to Israel that never was

Unclear why he never showed up

JERUSALEM (CNN) - The dinner was to start with veal paté and Cumberland sauce. Then a lime sherbert with anis to cleanse the palate, followed by breast of moullard for the main course. The menu at luxury Laromme Hotel -- not far from Jerusalem's Old City -- was prepared with one guest of honor in mind: Donald J. Trump.

Only he wasn't President then. It was the summer of 1989, and Israel was lobbying hard for the billionaire real estate magnate to visit the country, crafting an itinerary that would mix history and investment.

Plans called for Trump to visit Israel on a three-day trip, spending a day in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, before traveling to Eilat to scope out real estate for a possible casino.

Dozens of Israeli dignitaries were due to greet Trump at the Laromme when he arrived.

Israel's State Archive recently released a trove of documents relating to the visit, including menus, meetings with dignitaries, and newspaper clippings collected in an apparent attempt to learn about the mogul.

One article in the archive from Aviation Week detailed Trump's decision to buy Eastern Airlines and rebrand it the Trump Shuttle. An advertisement in a June 7, 1989, issue of The New York Times also deals with the airline. The advertisement uses language that has become all too familiar since Trump became President. "Nobody knows the shuttle business better than I do," the ad reads.

The visit, scheduled to begin on July 29, 1989, when Trump arrived in a private airplane, was orchestrated to tour him around the country before he flew out on July 31.

There was only one problem: Trump never showed up.

Uri Savir, who was then serving as Israel's Consul General in New York, almost certainly would have been involved in arranging such a visit. But he told CNN that he can't remember a Trump trip ever happening.

Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. at the time, Moshe Arad, doesn't remember Trump coming to Israel either. His name is on the official letter inviting Trump to Israel on behalf of the Prime Minister's Office. In it, Arad promises a "stimulating and rewarding experience" for Trump, touting "new opportunities for the peace that has so long eluded us."

Rafi Hochman, then-mayor of Eilat, remembers the discussions surrounding the visit. He even recalls speaking to Trump about it in New York.

"I invited him. I arrived in New York for meetings regarding investments. I wanted to meet him to check the possibility of a casino in Eilat," remembers Hochman. "The meeting was with his CEO, and then he entered the room. In the presence of both of them, I invited him to Israel. The reaction from the two of them was cordial. Then I returned to Israel and sent him an official invitation, and that was it."

CNN reached out to the White House and Trump Organization for comment, but has not received a response.

Israeli newspaper clippings from the time show that Hochman wasn't the only one interested in inviting Trump. Shimon Peres, then-Deputy Prime Minister, and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir also wanted to bring Trump to Israel.

But the visit never happened, with no clear explanation as to why.

Which begs the question: why did the State Archive release the documents now?

In a statement, Chief Archivist Yaakov Lazovik said: "The State Archive noticed a request for the Donald Trump visit portfolio and thus learned about the existence of the file. The portfolio reflects preparations for the visit in 1989. If, after the preparations, the visit itself did not take place, that does not reduce the reliability of the portfolio."

Fast forward to 2017. The Laromme Hotel is now the 5-star Inbal Hotel. Trump Shuttle shut down 25 years ago. And Donald Trump is President.

Trump will finally make his first visit to Israel next week, the second stop on his inaugural foreign trip as President. It's an event nearly three decades in the making.


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