Netanyahu lands in Washington ahead of Obama meeting

Netanyahu lands in Washington ahead of Obama meeting

Talks expected to address military assistance for coming decade, Israeli goodwill gestures toward Palestinians

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to board a plane headed to the US, November 8, 2015 (PMO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to board a plane headed to the US, November 8, 2015 (PMO)

WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Washington DC early Monday (late Sunday in the US), ahead of his meeting with US President Barack Obama.

The two will meet in the White House on Monday for the first time in over a year. Ahead of his flight, the premier said he planned to focus on requesting a decade of American aid to Israel.

Netanyahu and Obama will discuss “recent events in the Middle East, including the civil war in Syria, and possible progress with the Palestinians, or at least stabilizing the situation with them,” Netanyahu said earlier Sunday during the weekly cabinet meeting. He said they would also talk about “maintaining the State of Israel’s comparative advantage in the face of a changing Middle East.”

The prime minister is expected to ask for a significant increase in US military assistance to Israel, especially in light of increasing security threats as a result of Washington’s landmark nuclear pact with Iran.

Netanyahu is also set to appear at right- and left-leaning think tanks and will meet one of the only Democratic senators to go against Obama on the nuclear deal with Iran.

Obama is widely expected to ask Netanyahu about steps Israel could take to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution, even if a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians seems currently out of reach.

The prime minister is reportedly planning to present a series of goodwill gestures to the Palestinians that Israel has been preparing ahead of the two leaders’ meeting.

Ran Baratz (screen capture: YouTube)
Ran Baratz (screen capture: YouTube)

Preparations for the trip were overshadowed by Netanyahu’s choice as a key media adviser of Ran Baratz, who turned out to have insulted Obama as “anti-Semitic” and Secretary of State John Kerry as childish in various Facebook posts. Netanyahu has distanced himself from the comments, but has not canceled the appointment. In an address to Reforms Jews Saturday night, Vice President Joe Biden became the most senior US figure to castigate the “terrible” comments.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet the president on Monday morning Washington time. Later that day, he will meet Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the few Democratic lawmakers who voted against the Iran nuclear deal. Afterwards, he will visit the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, where he will deliver a speech and receive the 2015 Irving Kristol Award.

On Tuesday, the prime minister will address the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough will also speak at the convention.

Later that day, Netanyahu will appear at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, where he will be interviewed by the think tank’s president, Neera Tanden.

Netanyahu’s appearances at both left- and right-leaning institutions are likely intended to demonstrate the bipartisan nature of the Israel-US alliance.

On Tuesday evening, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with the Senate leadership.

On Wednesday, the prime minister is to visit the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, before heading back to Israel.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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