WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump warmly welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Oval Office on Monday, and said that he may come to Israel in May for the ceremony marking the formal transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
“I am looking at coming, and if I can, I will,” Trump said after he and Netanyahu issued brief statements before their meeting, the fifth since Trump took office.
Regardless of whether he makes the trip in May, Trump said he will be coming back to the Holy Land because “Israel is a very special country, special people, and I look forward to being there.”
Answering a question shouted at him about the much-discussed US peace plan
, Trump noted that his administration is “working very hard” on the plan, and that “I think we have a very good chance.”
According to Trump, his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has taken that issue off the table, something that he said no one has been able to do in the last 25 years.
Trump added: “The Palestinians, I think, are wanting to come back to the table.”
Asked what happens if they don’t, he said, “If they don’t, you won’t have peace.” That, he said, “is a possibility also, though I’m not saying that is going to happen.”
In a briefing with reporters after their meeting – which went on an hour longer than scheduled – Netanyahu said that half their discussion dealt with Iran, and the rest of the time with the situation in Syria, Iraq and with the Palestinians. Netanyahu said that Trump was extremely well versed about the details of both the Iranian and Palestinian issues.
“In another 60 days he has to make a decision [regarding Iran],” Netanyahu said. “He was very interested in my assessments and recommendations.”
The prime minister said that he told the president that the deal needed to be either “fully nixed, or fully fixed.”
Netanyahu would not answer questions relating to the ongoing investigations.
Trump and his wife, Melania, welcomed Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, to the White House on the South Lawn. After warm greetings, the two walked to the Oval Office for brief statements.
Trump opened by saying that he and Netanyahu have been friends “for a long time,” and that the relationship today between Israel and the US is probably the best it has ever been.
He said that the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy there was not only appreciated by Israel, but in other parts of the world as well.
Netanyahu began by thanking Trump for the Jerusalem move, and the “bold” decision to move the embassy for Israel’s 70th anniversary.
Netanyahu said that the Jewish people have a “long memory,” and will remember Trump’s decision, just as it remembers Cyrus the Great for allowing Jewish exiles to return to Israel from Babylon to rebuild the Temple, Lord Balfour for the Balfour Declaration, and president Harry Truman for being the first leader to recognize the Jewish state.
“And we remember how a few weeks ago President Donald J. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” he said. “Mr. President, this will be remembered by our people throughout the ages.”
Netanyahu also referred to Iran in his opening statement, saying that it is the greatest challenge to the US, Israel and the region, and that this would be a focus of the meeting.
Iran, he said, “is practicing its aggression everywhere including on our border.”