As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced snowballing corruption allegations at home, President Trump said, during the Israeli official’s visit to Washington, that the relationship between the two nations is better than ever.
Trump said he is considering attending the mid-May opening of the controversial U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv is controversial because Palestinians also consider Jerusalem their capital. Indeed, as NPR’s Jerusalem-based correspondent Daniel Estrin reported, Palestinian political leadership are currently boycotting the Trump administration because of the embassy decision.
On Monday Netanyahu effusively praised the embassy move, as he has before, saying that it will be “remembered by our people throughout the ages.”
The leaders appeared eager to showcase their close bond, even as both face political tensions at home.
“We are very close in trade deals, we are very, very, close on military and terrorism and all the things we have to work together on. The relationship has never been better,” said Trump as he sat with Netanyahu and their wives. Likewise, Netanyahu said that the relationship has “never been stronger” than under Trump.
The Associated Press reported that on Monday, a close confidant of Netanyahu agreed to turn state’s witness in one of the cases, adding to the pressure already on him. Daniel previously outlined the allegations against Netanyahu on Weekend All Things Considered:
“Last month, police recommended Netanyahu be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in two different corruption cases. He’s suspected of accepting expensive gifts from a Hollywood producer and an Australian businessman in exchange for favors. He’s also suspected of making a backroom deal with an Israeli newspaper publisher to help him with business in exchange for getting favorable coverage in his newspaper.
“And then, on Friday, just before Netanyahu left for Washington, police questioned him and his wife for several hours about suspicions that he gave regulatory favors to a major telecom company in exchange for positive coverage on a news website that that company owns.”
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing, as Daniel has reported, and “he’s questioned the motives of law enforcement, he’s accused the media of a witch hunt.”
Before departing, Netanyahu described this as a “very important visit.” It’s his fifth with Trump since the U.S. president took office last year. And Netanyahu said that Iran was on the top of the agenda.
“Iran must be stopped, that is our common challenge,” Netanyahu said.
Conspicuously low on the agenda is discussion of any possible “peace deal” with the Palestinians, which Trump has previously stated is a goal of his.
“Trump administration officials led by Jared Kushner have spent this year drafting a proposal for Mideast peace. And they say they’re going to present it very soon,” Daniel reported this weekend.
Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, has recently had his security clearance downgraded and it’s not clear how that has impacted his efforts. Trump reiterated Monday that a peace deal would be a “great thing.”
During this visit, Netanyahu is also set to meet with AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group. The prime minister’s goal, Daniel has reported, is to use the visit to shore up support as he faces mounting challenges at home.