PMO confirms Trump to visit by end of month, will meet Netanyahu

According to sources in premier's office, Republican presidential hopeful asked to meet with PM, whose policy is to comply with every US candidate who requests meeting in Israel.

December 3, 2015 16:29
3 minute read.
Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump

Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump, August 6, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed on Thursday that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that the Republican candidate is expected to come to Israel before the end of the month.

Trump, the Republican frontrunner, said at a rally held in Manassas, Virginia, on Wednesday that he plans to visit Israel “very soon” in order to meet Netanyahu.

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“I love Israel,” Trump said. “Israel is our real strong supporter.”

The candidate, who has expressed strong support for Israel over the course of his campaign, also described Netanyahu as “a great guy” and pointed out that during the 2013 Knesset elections he had even filmed a campaign ad for the prime minister.

Trump’s announcement came a day before Thursday’s Republican Jewish Coalition’s presidential forum in Washington where all 14 presidential candidates were individually scheduled to address Republican Jewish activists.

The RJC is backed by Sheldon Adelson, though according to the Wall Street Journal he is currently in South Africa, and will not be in attendance. Adelson’s financial support and endorsement are eagerly sought by the candidates, and he has not yet indicated whom he will back.

One official in the PMO said that Netanyahu’s policy is to meet with every candidate – Republican or Democratic – who comes to Israel and requests a meeting.

The official stressed that all candidates will get equal treatment, meaning that there will be a meeting and a photo opportunity with each candidate, though no public statements will be delivered before or after the meeting takes place.

Dogged by persistent claims that Netanyahu actively supported Mitt Romney in his 2012 campaign against US President Barack Obama, the PMO is taking great pains to not be seen during this campaign as partial to any candidate.

The last candidate to arrive here was former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who on a brief trip here in August not only met with Netanyahu, but also held a fund-raiser in Shiloh.

Prior to him, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was here in May, as was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has since dropped out of the campaign.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson came on a visit last December, before he declared his candidacy and turned into a household name in the US as one of the leading Republican candidates.

He did not meet with Netanyahu because of what aides to the premier described at the time as a “scheduling problem.”

Among other Republican presidential hopefuls, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio met Netanyahu during a visit here in 2013, as did Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did the same during a visit in 2012.

One source in Jerusalem said that with the US campaign now kicking into high gear in advance of the first primaries in two months’ time, a number of the candidates are expected to arrive in the near future.

Trump, meanwhile, was quoted Thursday in an AP interview as saying that if elected president, he would know whether it would be possible to reach a Palestinian- Israeli peace deal within six months.

“I have a real question as to whether or not both sides want to make it,” Trump was quoted as having said about an agreement.

“A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal – whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things,” he said. “They may not be, and I understand that, and I’m OK with that. But then you’re just not going to have a deal.”

According to the AP report, Trump was “short on specifics” about how he would deal with the diplomatic process, and – when asked about whether his goal would be a two-state solution – replied: “Well, I’m not going to even say that.”

At Wednesday’s rally in Virginia, Trump pointed a finger at Obama for providing “absolutely no support” to Netanyahu.

Back in October, during a speech in Reno, Nevada, Trump said he believes Obama “hates Israel” and that the US president’s Iran nuclear agreement put Israel “in such a massive amount of trouble.”

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