At White House, Netanyahu heaps praise on Trump's Jerusalem embassy move

Mar 07, 2018, 00:04
At White House, Netanyahu heaps praise on Trump's Jerusalem embassy move

There's much to celebrate but plenty of cause for trepidation, too, as President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet Monday at the White House.

Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greeted Netanyahu and his wife Sara outside the South Portico of the White House shortly after 12:00 pm on Monday.

Trump has vowed to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in mid-May unless the US and Europe agree on sanctions that would punish Iran for activity not covered by the accord or, in some cases, that would be eventually permitted under its terms. "Under your leadership, it's never been stronger", said Netanyahu.

In addition, Trump expressed optimism regarding the future of his efforts to bring about peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, despite the fact that his decision to transfer the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv spurred the Palestinians to assert that the US president could not be a mediator in that process. But even with an embrace from Trump, and an expected warm welcome at the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC's annual conference on Tuesday, Netanyahu will have a hard time escaping the growing scandals back home.

Trump said he might visit Jerusalem in May this year to open the new American Embassy there.

A statement from a Netanyahu spokesman dismissed the report, which said Hefetz would give evidence of corruption against Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. "But we're going to have it built very quickly and very inexpensively", he said.

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Netanyahu also addressed the Iranian threat, saying it is the "greatest challenge in the Middle East".

"We are very close in trade deals, we are very, very, close on military and terrorism and all the things we have to work together on".

Monday's meeting also came amid the continuing US investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, a probe that may have implications for the president's Mideast peace point man, son-in-law Jared Kushner, who recently lost his top secret security clearance. But in at least one big way, the uncertainty and strife at the White House intersected with Netanyahu's visit: a central USA interlocutor on Middle East peace, senior adviser Jared Kushner, has had his access to top-secret information yanked amid a crackdown on interim security clearances. He said the investigations did not come up during his meeting with Trump. It's his fifth with Trump since the US president took office previous year. "And we remember how a few weeks ago, President Donald J. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital".

On Friday, police investigators questioned the two separately over their involvement in the so-called "case 4000".

"This has nothing to do with the American political scene", Netanyahu said, in the briefing for Israeli and Jewish media reporters.

Legally and politically, Netanyahu finds himself in a far more precarious position than Trump. Hefetz would be the third Netanyahu associate to sign a state witness deal in recent months. But the now-frozen agreement had provided, among other clauses, for permanent oversight of such a pavilion by a panel including representatives of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism - a provision opposed by Israeli ultra-Orthodox leaders, including the two ultra-Orthodox parties in Netanyahu's coalition.

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In an additional case, dubbed Case 3000, involving a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with Germany, several members of Netanyahu's inner circle have been named as suspects, questioned or arrested.

Nikky Haley, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, got sustained applause at the annual conference of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby group, when she announced she would attend the inauguration.

The two will hold talks and sit down to a working lunch before Netanyahu speaks later in the week at the annual conference of the powerful pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC. Only 7 smaller countries aligned themselves with the United States and Israel.

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

"There will be a prayer space for all denominations at the Kotel", he said, using the Hebrew name for the holy site in Jerusalem's Old City.

"Iran has not given up its nuclear ambitions", Netanyahu said.

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