Expectations High for Netanyahu-Trump Meeting

Later today Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with President Donald J. Trump in Washington D.C. for their first official meeting as heads of state since the President’s inauguration in January. Expectations for the visit are high as leaders in both Washington and Jerusalem hope to reset U.S.-Israeli relations following the presidency of Barack Obama. The meeting also comes following statements from the White House that appeared to soften pro-Israel statements made by then candidate-Trump.

Prior to traveling to the Unite States Netanyahu was straightforward: “Even after eight years of complex navigation in the tenure of Obama, we still need to continue to act wisely with the Trump administration. While it is a more comfortable administration [to work with], there will still be restrictions.”

In context, Netanyahu’s comments refer to statements made last week by President Trump where the President appeared to walk back tough campaign rhetoric in support of Israeli settlements and moving the American embassy to Jerusalem. Although the President Trump was outspoken in criticizing the previous administration’s policy toward settlements, he said last week that further settlements “don’t help the process” and that “going forward with these settlements is [not] a good thing for peace.” On the issue of moving the American embassy (another prominent campaign promise) Trump appeared even more evasive saying, “I am thinking about the embassy, I am studying the embassy [issue], and we will see what happens. The embassy is not an easy decision.”

Despite these comments both sides have been overall optimistic in the lead-up to today’s meeting. In the same interview where he seemed to equivocate on settlements, President Trump also said, “I don’t want to condemn Israel. Israel has had a long history of condemnation and difficulty. And I don’t want to be condemning Israel. I understand Israel very well, and I respect Israel a lot, and they have been through a lot.”

The Iran nuclear deal (which Netanyahu vehemently opposes), the on-going civil war in Syria, the Islamic State, Israeli settlements, and the location of the U.S. embassy are topics that the U.S. President and Primer Minister are expected to discuss during their meeting. While on the campaign trail President Trump also asserted his desire to broker the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, something that has dogged Presidents for decades.

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David Closson

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