Happy Valentine's, Mr President: Netanyahu arrives in Washington
White House staff are in preparation for the arrival of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who will have his first meeting with Donald Trump on Wednesday since the US President's inauguration.
According to reports from Reuters, Trump staffers are set to meet with Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, with Israel hopeful the preparatory meetings will align Israeli and US thinking in the Middle East, ensuring there are “no gaps” between the traditional allies.
Trump’s election marks the first time Netanyahu, the head of a right-wing coalition government, has been in power with a Republican in the White House.
During his election campaign, Trump’s calls for the US Embassy in Israel to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem evoked support from many Israeli politicians, but caused Palestinian concern and anger throughout the Middle East.
Some right-wing Israeli political figures have also expressed hope that a Trump White House will signal the end of US support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, pointing to his backing of David Friedman – a supporter of settlements – as his envoy to Israel.
However, since taking office, Trump’s unabashedly pro-Israel stance on the campaign trail has been somewhat toned down, with calls for the US Embassy transfer to Jerusalem in particular put on hold amid widespread controversy and concerns over regional fallout from such a course of action.
Meanwhile Trump has said that the building of new Israeli settlements outside current boundaries is “not good”, stating in an interview with Israel Hayom last week that he was interested in working towards the “ultimate deal” – a reference to an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.
In 2009 Netanyahu committed to a two-state solution and has reiterated the position since.
However, he has also announced plans for the construction of 6,000 more settlement homes and has faced pressure from far-right figures within his coalition to annex parts of the West Bank viewed by the Palestinians as part of their future state.
Trump’s inauguration marks a new opportunity for Netanyahu to reinforce bonds with Washington having enjoyed a prickly relationship with the Obama administration.
In addition to Palestinian issues Netanyahu and Trump are expected to discuss regional issues including re-examining and reinforcing a flagship nuclear agreement signed by the Obama administration with Iran last year during a meeting on Wednesday that is scheduled to last two hours.
The meeting is set to take place at a time of controversy for the Trump administration following the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn over contacts made with Russian figures before Trump’s election.