Israel releases record of Trump-Netanyahu meeting

Lauren Perry
May 19, 2017

Since Mr Trump took office in January, the Israeli far-right has called on the prime minister to profit from the incoming Republican administration's pro-Israel bent by pressing issues on which previous USA presidents would not be budged, such as the location of the U.S. embassy.

Trump has two weeks to make that decision, before the embassy automatically moves based on a 1995 United States law mandating the location switch.

The report led Netanyahu to issue an angry rebuttal.

There have been some signs that the Israeli government, while publicly supporting moving the embassy, has quietly raised concerns that doing so could enflame the political and security situation. Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem would not harm the peace process.

The Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, is located in east Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the worldwide community.

Less than a week before US President Donald Trump arrives in Israel, the White House has been forced on to the defensive over reported comments by an American diplomat describing the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City - one of Judaism's holiest sites - as being in the West Bank. He said Israel must oppose attempts to establish a Palestinian state and insist on Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem "forever".

But while Trump's meeting with Netanyahu signaled an era of warmer US-Israel relations than had existed under President Barack Obama, Trump also slightly moderated his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the unequivocal support he promised Israel during the campaign.

"The statement that the Western Wall is in an area in the West Bank was received with shock", an Israel official said, according to Reuters.

"We are convinced that this statement is contrary to the policy of President Trump ..." No serving U.S. president has ever visited the Western Wall, because U.S. policy has been that the final status of Jerusalem has yet to be resolved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Although there has been no official announcement of his visit so far, Modi told a rally last month that he was "soon going to Israel". Under extremely tight security - 10,000 members of the Israeli police will take part in "Operation Blue Shield" protecting the president - Trump and his family will visit the Western Wall and likely pray at the holy site.

As the Times of Israel notes, the visit "would likely be interpreted by some as akin to an American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem".

The issues arose as Trump's controversial new ambassador to Israel David Friedman presented his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin at a ceremony in Jerusalem.

Other reports by VgToday

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