On Feb. 15, President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held their first meeting of the Trump presidency. The prime minister is the first Middle East leader to visit the White House during the Trump Administration.
In a joint press conference, the two leaders underscored the shared values of their two countries and pledged to work together on matters affecting the U.S.-Israel relationship. They agreed to address the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons program; confront one-sided unilateral actions against Israel at the United Nations; and explore ways to promote peace.
“The partnership between our two countries, built on our shared values, has advanced the cause of human freedom, dignity and peace,” said Trump. He continued: “These are the building blocks of democracy. The State of Israel is a symbol to the world of resilience in the face of oppression. I can think of no other state that's gone through what they've gone, and of survival in the face of genocide. We will never forget what the Jewish people have endured.”
Netanyahu added: “To me, to the State of Israel, it was so clearly evident in the words you just spoke, Israel has no better ally than the United States. And I want to assure you, the United States has no better ally than Israel. Our alliance has been remarkably strong…and is based on a deep bond of common values and common interest.”
“The security challenges faced by Israel are enormous, including the threat of Iran's nuclear ambitions,” said Trump. “My administration has already imposed new sanctions on Iran, and I will do more to prevent Iran from ever developing—I mean ever—a nuclear weapon. Our security assistance to Israel is currently at an all-time high, ensuring that Israel has the ability to defend itself from threats, of which there are unfortunately many.”
“You [President Trump] call for confronting Iran's terrorist regime…have said that the United States is committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” said Netanyahu.
The United Nations
Trump stated: “America and Israel are two nations that cherish the value of all human life. This is one more reason why we reject unfair and one-sided actions against Israel at the United Nations, which has treated Israel in my opinion very, very unfairly, or other international forums, as well as boycotts that target Israel.”
Netanyahu said, “I certainly welcome your forthright call to ensure that Israel is treated fairly in international forums and that the slander and boycotts of Israel are resisted mightily by the power and moral position of the United States of America.”
Working for Peace
Trump stated: “Our administration is committed to working with Israel and our common allies in the region towards greater security and stability. That includes working toward a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The United States will encourage a peace and really a great peace deal. We'll be working on it very, very diligently.”
“[W]e can seize an historic opportunity because for the first time in my lifetime and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but increasingly as an ally,” said Netanyahu. “I believe that under your leadership, this change in our region creates an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen security and advance peace. Let us seize this moment together. Let us bolster security. Let us seek new avenues of peace and let us bring the remarkable alliance between Israel and the United States to even greater heights.”
On the issue of settlements, Trump stated: “I'd like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We'll work something out but I would like to see a deal be made, I think a deal will be made.”
On the two-state solution, the president said: “I'm looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I'm very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians—if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I'm happy with the one they like the best.”
After the meeting, Trump and Netanyahu issued a joint statement in which they announced their “mutual goal of making the United States-Israel relationship even stronger as both countries pursue shared interests in the region.” To further this goal, the two leaders “directed their respective teams to form joint working groups in the months ahead to dramatically improve bilateral relations in a number of areas including cyber, intelligence, security, trade, technology, countering the threats posed by Iran and other actors, and promoting Arab-Israeli cooperation, including economic cooperation. A working group will also focus on enabling the growth of the Palestinian economy.”
In addition to meeting with President Trump, Netanyahu also dined with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Feb. 14 and held a number of meetings with Republican and Democratic leaders of both the Senate and House of Representatives on Feb. 15.
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