Netanyahu Visits Trump White House
President Trump and PM Netanyahu at a joint press conference at the White House, February 15, 2017. Photo: AFP/Mandel Ngan

February 15, 2017

During his first month in office, President Donald Trump welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. It is Netanyahu’s first visit to Washington since his speech against the Iran nuclear deal before Congress in March 2015, when he was not invited to meet with President Barack Obama. Netanyahu met with Trump in New York in September 2016 during the presidential campaign.

In a joint White House press conference before their private meeting, Trump says the visit “reaffirms our unbreakable bond with our cherished ally Israel” and says Israel is “a symbol of resilience in the face of oppression.”

Moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something Trump promised during the campaign, now is presented as something the president would like to do at some point but is studying for now. Trump approves the move in 2018 in conjunction with Israel’s 70th anniversary.

Both leaders back off commitments to seek a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. Netanyahu, who during the Obama administration publicly endorsed the idea of creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel, says that he prefers to focus on substance instead of labels and that any peace deal must include Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and Israeli control of security for the entire area west of the Jordan River.

Trump talks of making a deal “bigger and better” than anyone expects but, in a break with longtime U.S. policy, says he has no preference between two- and one-state solutions. “I’m very happy with the one that both parties like,” he says. “I can live with either one.”

Without demanding a freeze on settlements, Trump says he would like to see Israel “hold back on settlements for a little bit,” and he calls for compromises from both sides.

Netanyahu says he expects the U.S.-Israel alliance to grow even stronger under Trump, a comment seen as reflecting the public disagreements between the prime minister and Obama, even though they agreed in 2016 to a 10-year, $38 billion memorandum of understanding on military aid.

Trump visits Netanyahu in Israel three months later.