In a sign of what is to come, President Trump has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the U.S. in February. The offices of both leaders have issued statements indicating their eagerness to work with one another on issues such as combatting terrorism, dealing with the Palestinians and Iran, and strengthening the bonds between the U.S. and Israel.
Relations between the two countries have been deteriorating over the latter part of the Obama administration. During Obama’s second term, the U.S. has contested Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem, while Israel has been angered by the U.S.-Iranian nuclear deal. Tensions further flared in December when the U.S. allowed the passage of a U.N. resolution condemning Israel for its settlements.
Netanyahu has previously expressed hope (in 2014) that Obama’s successor would be more willing to work with him, and now is anticipating that Trump is the one to do so. For his part, Trump has signaled that U.S. policy towards Israel will improve under his administration and that the relationship between the countries will grow closer. The most visible sign would be his promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Netanyahu himself has an interesting life story. He has been Prime Minister of Israel since 2009, but also served in the same position from 1996 to 1999. In his early life he lived in the United States for a few years and graduated from a high school in Pennsylvania. He later served in the special forces of the Israeli military, participating in a number of counter-terrorism and hostage rescue raids while also finding time to earn degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His brother served in the military as well, but was killed during the Israeli rescue mission in Entebbe in 1976. This event impacted Netanyahu greatly, and he later wrote a few books focused on Israeli policy and counter-terrorism.
Netanyahu became friends with Fred Trump (Donald’s father) during his time in New York in the 1980s while serving as Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. He’s also developed close ties with Donald Trump; Trump even filmed a re-election campaign ad for Netanyahu in 2013 (at a time when it was rumored Obama was supporting Netanyahu’s rival). Thus, the two men have known each other for years, helping to make the warming of relations between their respective countries easier.
During his campaign Trump had promised closer relations with Israel, and the invitation extended to Netanyahu is the first step in delivering on these promises.