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Netanyahu Heads to Washington for Big Meeting with Trump

President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, Photo, AP

JERUSALEM, Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves for Washington Monday where he'll meet with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Netanyahu will also meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The U.S. trip dominated Sunday's four-hour cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, with Netanyahu encouraging ministers to share their perspectives.  

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Netanyahu "sat very patiently and heard everyone out," Arutz Sheva reported, quoting his Monday morning interview with Army Radio.

"Every cabinet member is opposed to a Palestinian state, including Netanyahu," Erdan told Army Radio. "Some oppose the idea for ideological or biblical reasons and some for security reasons."

The question is how to present Israel's interests to the U.S. president, he said.

"We need to remember that Trump was not chosen for the sake of Israel. He was chosen for the sake of U.S. citizens," Erdan said.

On Friday, Israeli author and political analyst Caroline Glick posted a comprehensive summary of the budding U.S.-Israeli relationship entitled, "A beautiful friendship."

Glick wrote that in the present political climate, "…Netanyahu must use his meeting with Trump to develop a working alliance to secure Israel's long-term strategic interests both on issues of joint concern and on issues that concern Israel alone."

Iran, Syria, Russia, Sunni Arab regimes and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) are on the agenda, in that order, she explains.

Glick calls last Thursday's White House statement on so-called Israeli settlements "the most supportive statement any U.S. administration has ever made about those communities." President Trump, she writes, "has repudiated" both former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush's positions on Jewish towns and cities in Israel's biblical heartland.

"Not only did the administration's statement not reject Israel's right to build new communities, it rejected completely the position of Trump's predecessors that Israeli communities are an obstacle to peace."

"We don't believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace," the Trump administration stated. It also had "no comment" on the Knesset's new regulation law retroactively legalizing Jewish homes built "in good faith" and backed by the government.

Meanwhile, an interview with President Trump by Israel Hayom foreign news editor Boaz Bismuth had media pundits in Israel and the West alleging the president was backtracking on some of his campaign promises to Israel.

For example, when asked about moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Trump said it's a complicated issue and "we will see what happens."

"The embassy is not an easy decision. It has obviously been out there for many, many years, and nobody has wanted to make that decision," he said. "I'm thinking about it very seriously, and we will see what happens."

Trump's statement that he isn't someone who believes "going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace" also provided fodder for those who label Israelis "occupiers" of "Palestinian land."

Netanyahu, meanwhile, has repeatedly offered to sit down with Palestinian Authority officials, but without preconditions, which include withdrawing to the 1949 armistice lines and re-dividing Jerusalem (as it was during the Jordanian occupation from 1948 to 1967), both non-starters for Israel.

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