Netanyahu hails ‘a new day’ after ‘historic’ talks with Trump
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Netanyahu hails ‘a new day’ after ‘historic’ talks with Trump

Citing warm personal relationship with American president, PM tells cabinet Israel-US relations now 'even stronger' than before

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on February 19, 2017. (Olivier Fitoussi/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on February 19, 2017. (Olivier Fitoussi/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday hailed the success of his recent talks with US President Donald Trump, calling last week’s trip to the United States he start of “a new day” in Israel’s relations with its American ally.

“The alliance between Israel and the US has always been steadfast but, I told them there and also here in Jerusalem: This alliance has become even stronger,” Netanyahu said at his first cabinet meeting since returning to Israel on Friday.

Citing his warm personal connection with Trump as well as “the common view about the dangers and opportunities in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said that during his ‘historic visit,” he and the president saw “eye to eye” on a range of issues facing the region, specifically noting the threat posed by Iranian aggression.

“I must point out that at the end of the meeting with the president, he shook my hand and defined relations between Israel and the US as ‘a new day.’ I must tell you that there is a new day here and it is a good day,” Netanyahu said.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC on February 15, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
US President Donald Trump (right) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, on February 15, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Netanyahu was welcomed by ministers, who last week urged him to reject the notion of a two-state solution in his meetings with Trump and have since celebrated the president’s statements suggesting the US is no longer committed to a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Appearing with Netanyahu before their meeting, Trump said Wednesday that he believed a peace deal was possible, but said he was not going to tell Israelis or Palestinians how to reach it.

“I’m looking at two state and one state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said, showing receptiveness to Netanyahu’s call for a regional initiative that relied on Israel’s improving relationships with Arab countries. “The United States will encourage a peace, and really a great peace deal,” said Trump, and added that the matter was “important to me personally.” Trump’s UN enovy, Nikki Haley, subsequently said the US was “absolutely” committed to the two-state solution.

Speaking Sunday, Netanyahu said that he and the president agreed on the need for regional partners to be involved in any possible future negotiations.

“We see the possibility of trying to provide a basis for the growing regional interests that are forming between Israel, the US and countries of the region both to rebuff Iran and to develop other opportunities and normalization,” he said. “In the end we hope to achieve peace. This is a fundamental change and, I would say, has accompanied all of our discussions and has formed the infrastructure of all the agreements between us.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome, Italy, June 27, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome, Italy, June 27, 2016. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

His comments came hours after a report in the Israeli daily Haaretz claiming that Netanyahu rejected a regional peace plan for the renewal of negotiations toward a two-state solution and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state less than a year ago.

While the celebrations of Israel’s hawkish ministers after the meeting with Trump may have been dampened slightly by his public request for Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit,” the prime minister asserted Sunday that progress on that issue was also imminent.

“We also agreed to create a team in an area that we have not previously agreed on: I mean, of course, on settlement in Judea and Samaria,” he said.

In a briefing after his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu had indicated a willingness to consider the US president’s call to rein in settlement construction. “I said it before, and I will repeat it here again: I don’t want to annex close to 2.5 million Palestinians to Israel. I do not want them to be our subjects,” he told Israeli and international reporters shortly after he left the White House.

At the same time, Netanyahu revealed that he asked the president to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel annexed in 1981. He refused to disclose how Trump and his aides responded, but said they did not appear surprised.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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