US President Donald Trump is slated to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 15 for talks that are expected to cover a range of security issues.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer, in announcing the meeting, said, "our relationship with the only democracy in the Middle East is crucial to the security of both our nations, and the president looks forward to discussing continued strategic, technological, military and intelligence cooperation with the prime minister."
Netanyahu then issued a statement saying he "deeply appreciated" Trump's "kind invitation" and the warm words about Israel.
"I look forward to discussing with him the areas of cooperation between us that are so vital to the security and well-being of our two countries," he said.
The meeting is seen as one of critical importance in coordinating positions on a number of issues, including Iran, the Palestinian diplomatic process, and the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem.
A number of senior members in Netanyahu’s cabinet are urging Netanyahu to come to Trump with a clear diplomatic initiative, and a clear message as to what Israel wants to see emerge from a diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
The two men, who have known each other for years, last met in September, just a month before the US elections.
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Officials in the Prime Minister's Office said Netanyahu still planned to visit Singapore and Australia next month as well, with Netanyahu expected to return from the US on February 16, and then fly east on February 18. ,This will be the first visit to either of those countries by a sitting prime minister, and – after Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and then foreign minister Avigdor Liberman cancelled trips there over the last three years – it was clear that another such cancellation would not be looked upon favorably in Australia, which is very supportive of Israel in the international arena.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, said that in light of reports that Iran has conducted another ballistic missile test in violation of a UN Security Council resolution, one of the issues he will raise with Trump will be the the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran. He said it is forbidden that Iranian “aggression” go without a response.
Officials told Fox News on Monday, that the test occurred outside Semnan, about 140 miles east of Tehran, on Sunday.
The missile in question was the Khorramshahr medium-range ballistic missile, which the officials said flew 600 miles before exploding, in a failed test of a reentry vehicle.
The test was in direct violation of a clause in UN resolution 2231, the resolution that endorsed the Iranian nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which stipulated clearly that Iran could not “undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
The United States and Europe lifted sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program when the deal went into effect in January 2016.
During his campaign, Trump expressed his opposition to the nuclear deal reached last year between Iran and worlds powers, calling it , one of the “worst deals” in history.
In an October address to supporters in Jerusalem, Trump vowed that he would stand up to Iran.
“My administration will stand side by side with Israel and Jewish leaders,” Trump said in the recorded video address. “Together, we will stand up to enemies like Iran bent on destroying Israel and your people. Together, we will make America and Israel safe again.”
In light of the perceived deterioration in US-Israel relations prior to the administration changes in the White House, Israelis have voiced expectations that the rapport between the Jewish State and the world power will experience a positive change.
President Trump seemed to side with Israel throughout his presidential race and joined Netanyahu in his criticism of then-President Barack Obama after the latter's administration did not exercise its ability to veto the Security Council vote on UN Resolution 2334, which called on Israel to halt its settlement construction.
“We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” Trump tweeted at the time, noting both Resolution 2334 as well as the Obama administration’s role in brokering an international nuclear deal with Iran. "Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”
President Trump was also critical of the US's treatment of Israel for the past eight years, and slammed former Secretary of State John Kerry whose speech on Middle East peace heeded that Israel's political conduct and support of the settlements enterprise was obstructing the process.
Speaking to the media, Trump said that he and Kerry "have different views." Later on during a press conference, the president said that "Israel has been treated very, very unfairly by a lot of different people." He also noted on Twitter after Kerry's speech that "[Israel used to have a great friend in the US, but... not anymore. The beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal, and now this (UN)!"
Much has been said about the budding work relations between the new American president and the Israeli premier, with both sides expressing warm wishes and mutual support in public media statements.
Even prior to elections, Netanyahu was quoted as saying that Trump's approach toward the State of Israel was clearly favorable. In a CBS interview in December 2016, the prime minister said that "Trump's attitude, his support for Israel is clear. He feels very warmly about the Jewish state, about the Jewish people and about Jewish people. There is no question about that.”