Netanyahu: I will discuss ‘ways to advance peace’ with Trump
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Netanyahu: I will discuss ‘ways to advance peace’ with Trump

PM says Israeli citizens will welcome US president ‘with open arms,’ is ‘looking forward’ to visit

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd-R) attends a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 21, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ronen Zvulun)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd-R) attends a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on May 21, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ronen Zvulun)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said Israel was welcoming US President Donald Trump “with open arms,” adding that he will “discuss ways to advance peace” with the US leader during his Israel visit on Monday-Tuesday.

“Mr. President, we look forward to your visit. The citizens of Israel will receive you with open arms,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

“I will discuss with President Trump ways to strengthen even further the primary and strongest alliance with the US. We will strengthen security ties, which are strengthening daily, and we will also discuss ways to advance peace,” he said.

Netanyahu also noted the significance of Trump’s first presidential overseas trip including a visit to “Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”

Trump’s arrival in Israel on Monday comes amid efforts by the US president to renew the peace process between the US and Israel.

The Haaretz daily reported Sunday the US president will ask Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to commit to confidence-building measures in order to lay the groundwork for restarting the peace process. A senior White House official said Trump will urge Netanyahu to restrict settlement building in the West Bank and take steps to strengthen the Palestinian economy, and urge Abbas to stop PA-sponsored incitement against Israel.

“The president has made a general statement regarding his position and he hopes the Israeli government will take it into consideration,” the White House official told Haaretz. “He was also very direct with President Abbas regarding incitement and the paying of stipends to the families of terrorists.”

Trump is scheduled to visit Israel and the West Bank on Monday and Tuesday for meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas.

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with with PA President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with with PA President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump and senior White House aides arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday on the first leg of his trip to the Middle East.

The Saudis are confident Trump can conclude a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians and are prepared to help, Riyadh’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Saturday evening, during a press conference with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Jubeir spoke of the “kingdom’s optimism that President Trump, with a new approach and determination, can bring a conclusion to this long conflict. He certainly has the vision, and we believe he has the strength and the decisiveness. And the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands prepared to work with the United States in order to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians and Israelis and Arabs.”

The US leader has repeatedly indicated that he would like to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and in an interview Thursday with the Israel Hayom newspaper said he “honestly, truly” thinks he can do so.

“I think that there is a great opportunity to reach a deal [between Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas],” the president said. “I am working very hard so that finally the Israelis and Palestinians will have peace, and I hope that this can happen quicker than anyone ever imagined.”

Trump said that he believes that there is a good chance for peace because it is the right time and he has the right people negotiating a deal. “It is a great opportunity and it is good for everyone,” he said. “This deal is good for all. We have the right people working on it, [Ambassador] David Friedman and [Middle East envoy] Jason Greenblatt.”

Trump refused to say whether the US would seek to impose a construction freeze in West Bank settlements. The president also remained non-committal on whether he would fulfill his campaign promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “There are many interesting things that we are working on,” he said. “We’ll speak about [the embassy] later.”

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