‘We see eye-to-eye’: Netanyahu enthusiastic on his way to Washington to meet Trump
With things in the international arena apparently changing in Israel’s favor with Obama gone, PM Netanyahu is heading to meet his long-time acquaintance, Donald Trump, now in the role of US president, to “upgrade” the US-Israel relationship.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took off for the US capital on Monday, where he is set to meet Trump in the White House on Wednesday. Having known Donald Trump “very well” (according to Netanyahu himself) and even Donald Trump’s father (according to the Washington Post) – since Netanyahu served his country in the UN in New York in the 1980s, Netanyahu spoke about his current expectations while boarding the plane to Washington.
“I am going to Washington to have a very important meeting with President Trump… The alliance between Israel and America has always been extremely strong and it is about to get even stronger,” Netanyahu told the media at the airport.
“President Trump and I see eye-to-eye on the dangers emanating from the region, but also on the opportunities. We will talk about both as well as upgrading the relations between Israel and the US in many, many fields,” he said.
Netanyahu, who is among the very first world leaders to have a personal encounter with President Trump, said he would also meet Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and other Republican and Democratic leaders while in Washington.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, relations with Iran, and the Syrian crisis are on the meeting’s agenda, the Jerusalem Post reported, while citing Netanyahu as saying that he intends “to steer the historic alliance for the benefit of national interest."
Before heading to the US, Netanyahu received warnings from within his right-wing coalition, calling on the PM to abandon the two-state solution to the decades-long standoff. Having called the upcoming meeting with Trump "the test of Netanyahu's life," the chair of the Jewish Home party and Israel's Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, said that when the issue of Israel and Palestine relations is discussed, there should be no Palestinian state.
If there is "an obligation to establish Palestine or ‘two states’ in some or other iteration, we will all feel it in our flesh for years to come. It will be an earthquake," the Times of Israel quoted the pro-settlers politician as saying.
Last week, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, greenlighted the legalization of nearly 4,000 settler homes illegally constructed in the West Bank as it passed a controversial retroactive bill that will force the Arab owners of the land to either accept monetary compensation or another piece of land in exchange for their own. Prior to its approval, the bill was likened to annexation by Israel's attorney general, while the UN, the EU, and individual states have condemned the decision.
In December 2016, the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding that Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities" on occupied Palestinian territories. Back then, US abstained from a veto, but "a new era at the UN, an era where the US stands firmly behind Israel against any and all attempts to harm the Jewish State," has apparently begun.
The comment about possible changes to come has been made by Israel's UN ambassador, Danny Danon, after Washington blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to lead the UN’s political mission in Libya. Having accused the world body of being "unfairly biased" in favor of the Palestinian Authority, new US Ambassador Nikki Haley said that the Trump administration "was disappointed" by the UN's plans for the Palestinian diplomat.
However, in a recent exclusive interview with Israel's Hayom newspaper, Trump suggested that US support for Israel might not be unconditional. "I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace," Trump said, adding that while he doesn't "want to be condemning Israel... a deal should be made" that "has to be good for everybody," meaning the Palestinians.
Trump also said he was reviewing his previous promise to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. "I am thinking about the embassy... The embassy is not an easy decision. It has obviously been out there for many, many years, and nobody has wanted to make that decision. I'm thinking about it very seriously, and we will see what happens."
Trump described Netanyahu as "a good man." "We've always had good chemistry," he said.