Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday that if elected president, he would recognize Jerusalem as the “undivided capital” of Israel.
Donald Trump’s camp said the candidate and Netanyahu discussed a wide variety of issues, including Israel’s experiences in building walls, during a meeting between the two at the billionaire businessman’s office in Manhattan, New York.
“Mr. Trump said that under a Trump administration, there will be extraordinary strategic, technological, military and intelligence cooperation between the two countries. Mr. Trump recognized Israel as a vital partner of the United States in the global war against radical Islamic terrorism,” a statement from the Trump campaign read. “Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed at length Israel’s successful experience with a security fence that helped secure its borders.”
“Mr. Trump acknowledged that Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish People for over 3,000 years, and that the United States, under a Trump administration, will finally accept the long-standing Congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel,” the statement added.
Trump also said the two discussed “at length the nuclear deal with Iran, the battle against ISIS and many other regional security concerns.”
“Mr. Trump recognized that Israel and its citizens have suffered far too long on the front lines of Islamic terrorism. He agreed with Prime Minister Netanyahu that the Israeli people want a just and lasting peace with their neighbors, but that peace will only come when the Palestinians renounce hatred and violence and accept Israel as a Jewish State,” according to the release.
The two convened for an hour and 20 minutes in Trump Tower, in Manhattan.
Netanyahu’s bureau released a statement saying the prime minister “thanked Mr. Trump for his friendship and support of Israel.”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu presented to Mr. Trump Israel’s stance regarding regional issues related to Israel’s security and its efforts to bring peace and stability to the region,” the prime minister’s statement read.
Pictures released by the Prime Minister’s Office show the two shaking hands and smiling in Trump’s gilded home in the Trump Tower.
Trump had seemed to suggest earlier in his campaign that he would not support military aid to Israel or other countries, but the statement seems to walk that back.
“Mr. Trump agreed that the military assistance provided to Israel and missile defense cooperation with Israel are an excellent investment for America,” the statement reads.
Present at the meeting with the two were also envoy to the US Ron Dermer and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew who advises the candidate on Israel.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was expected to meet Netanyahu later on Sunday. Both meetings had the potential to set the tone for relations between the allied countries during the next presidential administration.
Both meetings were closed to the press.
Sources close to Netanyahu said he is meeting the candidates in their homes or offices because he appreciates they are busy ahead of the presidential debate, scheduled for tomorrow.
Trump tweeted Sunday that he was “looking forward to” his meeting with Netanyahu at Trump Tower, where the candidate lives. In meeting both candidates, the Israeli leader was seeking to project neutrality this time after perceptions arose that he favored Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama in 2012.
According to Israeli sources, the meetings were set up after the Trump campaign spoke to Netanyahu’s staff on Friday. Netanyahu’s office then reached out to the Clinton campaign in a bid to avoid the appearance of favoring the GOP candidate.
A senior Israeli official in New York said Thursday that neither Clinton nor Trump had asked to meet with Netanyahu, according to a Bloomberg report.
The one-on-one discussions will follow what was likely Netanyahu’s final meeting with Obama last week, capping what has been a sometimes rocky relationship between the leaders of the two allies.
Trump has been a fierce critic of the Iran nuclear agreement and promised during a speech to AIPAC earlier this year that he would deepen ties between the two countries if he were elected president, adding the days of “treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on day one.” But he also raised eyebrows when he questioned Israel’s commitment to a peace deal last year and said he didn’t want to show any bias in favor of one side or the other.
Clinton has supported a negotiated two-state solution in the region, vowed to enforce the Iran nuclear agreement and help defend Israel’s security. The former secretary of state suggested in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 earlier this month that the Islamic State group was “rooting for Donald Trump’s victory” and he had helped strengthen the hands of extremists by his provocative statements about Muslims.
The meetings will also come after the US recently completed a 10-year, $38-billion military aid package for Israel. Clinton said in a statement that it would help “solidify and chart a course for the US-Israeli defense relationship in the 21st century as we face a range of common challenges.”
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.