Trump might attend inauguration of new American embassy in Jerusalem

07 March, 2018, 00:02 | Author: Courtney Perry
  • Netanyahu-Trump

Trump noted that the couples had been friends "for a long time", and Netanyahu proved it by referring to the president once as "Donald". He added that the U.S. -Israel relationship had never been closer than since Trump took office.

Donald Trump said he may attend the opening of a controversial new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, a fraught prospect created to underscore close ties with Benjamin Netanyahu, as he hosted the Israeli leader at the White House on Monday.

Netanyahu said of Trump's decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem: "This will be remembered by our people through the ages". And although Israel's government is overjoyed by Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital - with a USA embassy set to open in the holy city in May - misgivings are percolating under the surface over Iran, where Israel sees Trump's efforts to date to crack down on Israel's arch-enemy as lacking. Mired in corruption investigations threatening his political survival, Netanyahu - questioned at his home by police on Friday - stepped into a different spotlight during his five-day US visit. It's my responsibility as prime minister of Israel to advance those interests as best I can.

"This has nothing to do with the American political scene", Netanyahu said, in the briefing for Israeli and Jewish media reporters. He told us the central issue in their meeting was, quote, "Iran, Iran and Iran". Both are among the Trump advisers who are deeply skeptical about the Iran nuclear agreement, which Trump has threatened to abandon in May. Of particular concern is that Trump may push new restrictions to prevent Iran from developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting the US, but will allow Iran to keep developing medium-range ballistic missiles that could strike Israel.

The visit comes as Trump's efforts to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians appears stalled.

Case 2000, police said, involved deals made between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, publisher of the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

Israeli officials are concerned Trump may not demand enough, particularly on Iran's ballistic missile program, and are wary the administration may be acquiescing to Iran's growing presence in Syria and influence in Lebanon - two Israeli neighbors.

"There is no reason for us to go to early elections, and with good will that will not happen", he told journalists. Did he meet with Netanyahu today?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday defended policies that have sometimes drawn dissent from American Jews, including his government's freeze last of a painstakingly negotiated agreement with Diaspora leaders on a permanent pavilion for pluralistic prayer at the Western Wall. I asked Netanyahu about a Washington Post report that Israel was among four countries that look to take advantage of Kushner's inexperience, looking for potential leverage with him.


"Sometimes there's disagreement" with the United States "and sometimes we even acted in the greater interest" of Israel, the prime minister said. And he wouldn't comment further.

In coming to Washington, Netanyahu was hoping to escape political turmoil back home. Israeli media say one of his former aides has agreed to help the police.

Trump said his Mideast team, led by Kushner, was hard at work on a peace proposal that is nearing completion, but he offered no details on the plan that the Palestinians say will be dead on arrival and not worth discussing. But just walk us through the allegations. Netanyahu was questioned "under caution" by police at his home on Friday, making him a suspect in three separate corruption investigations.

Israel's attorney general must now decide whether to indict Netanyahu on those two cases. He planned to hold a meeting and working lunch with Trump on Monday before speaking at the conference later in the week. The visit from Netanyahu was the first high-profile engagement for Kushner since he lost his "top secret" access. He didn't want to get into it with reporters.

Trump said he believed the Palestinians are "wanting to come back to the table very badly" - but did not expand on that claim.

KELLY: And briefly, Daniel, what else does Netanyahu have on his plate here in the States?

"I may. I may", he said.

KELLY: All right, that's NPR's Daniel Estrin reporting.

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