The Associated Press JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads to Washington this week for a high-profile meeting with President Donald Trump that suddenly is clouded in uncertainty.
After embracing Israel’s hard-line nationalist right throughout his presidential campaign, Trump appears to have softened some of his positions on key issues since taking office.
Although Wednesday’s meeting is expected to be much warmer than Netanyahu’s famously tense encounters with former President Barack Obama, the Israeli leader will still need to tread with caution on sensitive issues like Israeli settlement construction and the conflict with the Palestinians, Iran and the war in Syria.
“It is a very important meeting. It is a new president,” said Sallai Meridor, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington. The “positive thing” is that Trump’s policies are still not set, he said, “so there is an opportunity to listen and to develop and to impact the strategy that is being developed in the United States.”
In dealing with such a divisive president, Netanyahu will also face some potential pitfalls. Key constituencies, including congressional Democrats and many American Jews, oppose Trump’s policies, while at home he is under pressure from his hard-line allies to push for policies that Trump may not support.
Ahead of the visit, Netanyahu said he would handle ties with the U.S., Israel’s closest and most important ally, in a “prudent manner,” but he steered clear of specifics.
“The alliance between Israel and America has always been extremely strong. It’s about to get even stronger. President Trump and I see eye to eye on the dangers emanating from the region, but also on the opportunities,” Netanyahu said Monday as he boarded a plane to Washington.
Malcolm Hoenlein, a Jewish-American leader who has close ties with both Netanyahu and White House officials, said Netanyahu should set modest goals for his first working meeting with the new president. He said the objective should be to establish a good working relationship in order to tackle concrete issues down the road.