WASHINGTON — President Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday that he may want to visit his country for the opening of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, a flash point in potential peace talks with the Palestinians.
“We’re going to have it built very quickly,” Trump said to reporters before his meeting with Netanyahu.
While not making any commitments, Trump said, “we’re looking at coming … If I can, I will.”
Beyond the brief photo opportunity, neither Trump not Netanyahu planned to speak after meetings expected to focus on potential peace talks with the Palestinians, disputes with Iran, and the civil war in Syria.
“The relationship has never been better,” Trump said of the United States and Israel.
For his part, Netanyahu praised Trump for his Jerusalem decision: “This will be remembered by our people through the ages. Others talked about it. You did it.”
The prime minister also described Iran as the biggest challenge facing Israel and the Middle East.
Netanyahu is pushing Trump to end the Iranian nuclear agreement in which the U.S. and allies ease sanctions on Tehran as it gives up the means to make nuclear weapons. He believes Iran is cheating on the agreement, in part by promoting de-stabilization in Syria and Lebanon.
“Iran must be stopped,” Netanyahu said. “That is our common challenge.”
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Trump has said he will end the agreement if Congress doesn’t somehow “fix” it, but he has not yet taken that step.
Both Trump and Netanyahu entered their White House meeting under heavy political pressure domestically.
Netanyahu is facing a corruption investigation back in Israel; he is in Washington to speak to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group.
Trump is dealing with low approval ratings and criticism on issues like immigration and tariffs.
Trump supporters in both countries praised his decision to recognize the president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, with plans to move the U.S. embassy to that city from Tel Aviv.
But they are also concerned that the administration is not doing enough to counter Iranian activity in Syria and Lebanon.
“If we don’t come up with a strategy against Iran we’re going to make Israel go to war here pretty soon with the Hezbollah elements in southern Lebanon,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking Sunday on CBS’ Face The Nation.
Graham also called U.S. policy in Syria “a complete mess.”
The Palestinians, meanwhile, said Trump’s decision on Jerusalem renders the United States an unreliable actor in peace talks.
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