In “very warm” phone call, leaders discuss nuclear deal with Iran, peace process with the Palestinians and more • Trump stresses “unprecedented commitment” to Israel’s security • White House “at the very beginning stages” of discussing embassy transfer.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone Sunday for the first time since Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, and the American president invited the prime minister to meet with him in Washington in early February.
The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that “President Trump invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to come to Washington to meet him in February. A final date for the visit will be set in the days ahead.”
The statement also said the two leaders had a “very warm conversation,” and that Netanyahu “expressed his desire to work closely with President Trump to forge a common vision and advance peace and security in the region, with no daylight between the United States and Israel.”
The two leaders also “discussed the nuclear deal with Iran, the peace process with the Palestinians and other issues,” the statement said.
Trump described the discussion with Netanyahu as “very nice” and stressed his “unprecedented commitment” to Israel’s security.
“The president and the prime minister agreed to continue to closely consult on a range of regional issues, including addressing the threats posed by Iran,” the White House said in a statement after the phone call. “The president stressed that countering ISIL [Islamic State] and other radical Islamic terrorist groups will be a priority for his administration.”
The statement continued that “peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties. … The United States will work closely with Israel to make progress toward that goal. The two leaders agreed to meet in early February.”
The readout from the White House did not include any mention of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an action that would likely spark anger in the Arab world.
Earlier on Sunday, the White House said it was only in the early stages of talks to fulfill Trump’s campaign pledge to relocate the embassy.
“We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement. Aides said no announcement of an embassy move was imminent.
In the days leading to his inauguration, Trump had discussed the matter of moving the embassy with his senior staff. His close aides told Israel Hayom Sunday that Trump was not a person to break promises, and that the statement issued by the White House about moving the embassy should be taken very seriously.
In an interview with Israel Hayom in February 2016, Trump vowed to transfer the American Embassy to Jerusalem.
Last Wednesday, Trump told Israel Hayom: “Of course I remember what I told you about Jerusalem. Of course I didn’t forget. And you know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”
In Israel, meanwhile, politicians were quick to welcome the White House announcement that discussions had begun on relocating the embassy to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin (Likud) said, “I applaud the Trump administration for beginning to implement the campaign promise to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. A united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel according to Israeli law and the American Congress, which the American Congress has recognized through special legislation. The time has come to realize this with actions and transfer the embassy to Jerusalem.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) said, “I commend the president of the United States for initiating the process of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. The time for talk is over; now is the time for actions.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said: “Trump is proving he is a true friend of the State of Israel, who keeps his word. The announcement sends a clear message to the entire world that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel. We will help the American administration in any possible way to transfer of the embassy in the quickest and smoothest manner.”
Also Sunday, Trump’s pick for U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, announced that intends to live in Jerusalem, rather than the ambassador’s residence in Herzliya. Friedman owns an apartment in the capital’s Talbieh neighborhood, where he resides during his visits to the country.
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