Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Donald Trump in Washington on Monday to discuss bilateral relations, nuclear Iran, and the peace process.
“It’s a great honor to have Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mrs. Netanyahu with us,” President Trump said. “They’ve been friends for a long time. We have, I would say, probably the best relationships right now with Israel that we ever had. I think we’re as close now as, maybe, ever before.”
The president then spoke of Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem was a wonderful thing, and I know it was very much appreciated in a big part of the world, not just in Israel — in a very big part. So that was a decision that I had to make. Many presidents were discussing whether or not to make that decision, and they promised it in their campaigns but they never were able to do what they should have done. So I was able to do it, and I think it’s something that’s very much appreciated in Israel, but far beyond Israel.”
He added that both countries “are very close on trade deals. We are very, very close on military and terrorism and all of the things that we have to work together on. So the relationship has never been better.”
Netanyahu then spoke.
“This is the first time we meet in Washington, America’s capital, after you declared, Mr. President, Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And this was a historic proclamation, followed by your bold decision to move the embassy by our upcoming national Independence Day.”
The Trump administration last week announced it would open its new embassy in Jerusalem in May for Israel’s 70th independence celebration.
Netanyahu spoke of the history of Jerusalem’s recognition.
“I want to tell you that the Jewish people have a long memory, so we remember the proclamation of the great king, Cyrus the Great, Persian king 2,500 years ago. He proclaimed that the Jewish exiles in Babylon could come back and rebuild our Temple in Jerusalem. We remember a hundred years ago, Lord Balfour, who issued the Balfour Proclamation that recognized the rights of the Jewish people in our ancestral homeland. We remember 70 years ago, President Harry S. Truman was 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. Mr. President, this will be remembered by our people through the ages.”
Netanyahu then praised Trump’s historic declaration of Jerusalem. “As you just said, others talked about it; you did it. So, I want to thank you on behalf of the people of Israel, and I also look forward to our discussions on both challenges and opportunities.”
The prime minister noted the threats facing the Jewish state, mainly Iran.
“If I had to say what is our greatest challenge in the Middle East to both our countries, to our Arab neighbors, it’s encapsulated in one word: Iran. Iran has not given up its nuclear ambitions. It came out of this nuclear deal emboldened, enriched. It’s practicing aggression everywhere, including on our own borders. And I think we have to stop this country that chants, ‘Death to Israel, death to America.’ Iran must be stopped. That is our common challenge.
“The second is seeking, because of that challenge, to exploit the opportunity for peace, because the Arabs have never been closer to Israel; Israel has never been closer to the Arab states. And we seek also to broaden that peace to the Palestinians.”
Netanyahu reiterated: “I’ve been here for nearly four decades with, talking, seeking to build the American-Israel alliance. Under your leadership, it’s never been stronger. And the people of Israel see your position on Jerusalem. They see your position on Iran. They see your magnificent defense of Israel and the truth in the United Nations. And I as prime minister see something that you as president see, but others can’t see. It’s the extent of our intelligence and other cooperation in matters that are vital for the security of both our peoples… I just want to say thank you for your leadership and thank you for your tremendous friendship.”
It was their fifth meeting since Trump became president.
On attending the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem in May, Trump said, “I am looking at coming, and if I can, I will.” On the peace process he said, “I think we have a very good chance… The Palestinians, I think, are wanting to come back to the table.”
Amir Tsarfati, a Jewish Christian, is the founder and president of Behold Israel, a news site to correct the scarcity in trustworthy reportage on issues and events impacting Israel, and to resolve the uncertainty about who or what to believe.