Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC, U.S., March 6, 2018.
(photo credit: BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS)
With just 16 days left before the elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to leave after midnight Saturday for Washington where he will meet twice with US President Donald Trump and address AIPAC’s annual policy conference.
Netanyahu will spend four of the remaining days in the campaign in the US, hoping that his meetings with Trump, and the address to AIPAC, will boost his reelection campaign as it will focus on his strengths – diplomatic issues – rather than on allegations of corruption.
Netanyahu is traveling to Washington flush with Trump’s declaration that the time has come to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Before leaving for Washington, Netanyahu said he will thank Trump “for the American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.” He said he will discuss with the president “the continuation of our joint struggle against Iranian aggression. Our steps will only increase.”
Netanyahu also “congratulated” the administration for imposing sanctions on the heads of Iran’s military nuclear program.
“Iran continues to deceive the international community and lie to the world about its military nuclear program,” he said. “The Iranian regime continues to conceal its capabilities and to strive for nuclear weapons. Iran endangers the peace of the Middle East and the entire world and must be blocked.”
While Israeli prime ministers generally only get one meeting with the US president when they travel to the US in the spring, for the AIPAC conference, and in the fall for the UN General Assembly meeting, this time Netanyahu is slated to meet Trump on two different occasions.
The two are slated to meet for a working session in the White House on Monday, and Trump is scheduled to host Netanyahu for dinner on Tuesday evening. According to Reuters, US officials are preparing an official document that would recognize the Golan Heights as a sovereign Israeli territory, which Trump is likely to sign when Netanyahu meets him on Monday.
On Tuesday morning he is expected to address AIPAC on the last day of its conference, following scheduled addresses by Benny Gantz, Stav Shaffir and Naftali Bennett.
After the AIPAC address he will then hold a series of diplomatic meetings on Capitol Hill with both Republicans and Democrats in meetings designed to show that support for Israel remains strong in both parties, despite criticism that he is too identified with Trump and the Republican Party, and that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is moving away from Israel.
Netanyahu will meet in the capitol with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate leadership and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. The prime minister will also meet with House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the House leadership and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Netanyahu is scheduled to leave Washington on Wednesday for the return flight home.
This will be the sixth bilateral meeting between the two leaders since Trump took office in 2017. This meeting, following Trump’s announcement regarding the Golan Heights, is expected to be especially warm, with Netanyahu keen on waving the banner of the extraordinarily close ties with the US before the elections, and Trump also having domestic political interests in having the close ties with Israel visible since this is a key issue for a large part of his Evangelical base.
Netanyahu hailed Trump on Thursday, after the Golan announcement, saying that “we have had no greater friend in our history.”
“He did it again,” Netanyahu said fondly of Trump on Thursday, at a press opportunity alongside visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“First, he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US Embassy here,” he said. “Then, he pulled out of the disastrous Iran treaty and reimposed sanctions. But now he did something of equal historic importance – he recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and he did so at a time when Iran is trying to use Syria as a platform to attack and destroy Israel.”
In addition to discussing Iran and Syria, Trump and Netanyahu are expected to discuss the Palestinian issue. Trump’s Mideast team is expected to present its Mideast peace plan following the elections, with some voicing concern that following Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan and recognizing Jerusalem as its capital, he will ask Israel for far-reaching concessions.
Pompeo, asked repeatedly about the issue while in Jerusalem, refused to reveal any details of the plan other than to say that it is a vision of what might ultimately lead to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that the US wants “a better life for the Palestinian people and a path where Israel and the Palestinians are not in conflict.”
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