When President Trump announced Thursday that he would visit the centers of three great religions on his first foreign trip, his advisers presented it as a sign that the United States planned to marshal a powerful coalition against the forces of intolerance.
In any case, Mr. Trump’s stops — in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome — are equally revealing as a contrast to the first trip to the Middle East made by his predecessor, President Barack Obama. The stark differences between that trip, in June 2009, and Mr. Trump’s later this month speak to how the world has changed in the last eight years and how this new president plans to confront it.
“Tolerance is the cornerstone of peace,” Mr. Trump said at a ceremony at the White House, in which he said he would go to “Saudi Arabia, then Israel, and then to a place that my cardinals love very much, Rome.”
Mr. Obama also traveled to Saudi Arabia in June 2009, but not to Israel. The centerpiece of his trip was a landmark address to the Muslim world at Cairo University in the Egyptian capital. Mr. Trump’s aides said nothing about a speech, suggesting that the president would mainly transact his business with leaders behind closed doors.
White House officials said foreign leaders would be more willing to help the United States if disagreements over human rights and other issues were aired in private. They cited the recent release of an Egyptian-American aid worker detained in Egypt, which was negotiated in quiet talks with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
“Obama’s approach was to build support with the Arab public through his Cairo speech,” said Martin S. Indyk, the executive vice president of the Brookings Institution. “Trump’s approach is to deal with the Arab leaders, not speak to their people, which is much more comfortable for the leaders.”
For the first international trip by a president who is something of a homebody, Mr. Trump’s itinerary is ambitious. Aides said he would leave Washington on May 19 and stop first in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, before moving on to Jerusalem and then Rome. He will attend a NATO meeting in Brussels that opens on May 24 and then fly to Sicily, where the leaders of the Group of 7 will meet starting May 26.