Trump calls Netanyahu to discuss Iranian ‘aggression’
Talk between PM and US president comes after reported Iranian missile test over weekend; Netanyahu thanks Trump for stand on anti-Semitism
US President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to discuss the Iranian nuclear deal and the regime’s recent belligerent acts.
The two leaders talked “at length” about the “dangers emanating from Iran and Iranian aggression in the region and the need to work together to deal with these threats,” according to a readout from the Prime Minister’s Office.
During the phone call, Netanyahu thanked Trump for the warm welcome he received last month in the White House.
The prime minister also expressed his gratitude to the US president for his “forceful statement against anti-Semitism,” during his speech last week to a joint meeting of the US Congress.
According to a readout from the White House, Netanyahu and Trump “discussed the need to counter continuing threats and challenges facing the Middle East region.”
“The Prime Minister thanked the President for his comments at the beginning of his speech before the Joint Session of Congress condemning anti-Semitism,” the White House said in the statement.
The conversation came as Netanyahu was being questioned by police as part of a corruption investigation. Investigators gave the prime minister a half-hour break to speak with Trump.
The telephone conversation between Trump and Netanyahu on Monday came following a report that Iran had test fired a pair of ballistic missiles over the weekend.
An American naval vessel was also harassed by fast Iranian speed boats in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday, US officials said.
At a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem Monday morning marking 25 years since the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Netanyahu told diplomats that the vast majority of security threats against the Jewish state came from Iran.
“Iran is the greatest generator of terrorism in the world in the world and we need to to fight this terror because it is just one arm of Iranian aggression, which also seeks nuclear weapons and advances its ballistic missiles program,” he said.
Last month, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on a number of entities connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program and warned the Islamic Republic it had been “put on notice” and that it was “playing with fire.”
Since his inauguration in January, Trump has adopted a much more hawkish stance toward Iran that his predecessor, which has been largely welcomed by Israeli government officials, who view Iran as one of its greatest external threats.
However, Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Monay the US had not decided how it would approach the nuclear deal, after meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised several times to dismantle the nuclear deal lifting sanctions in exchange for enrichment curbs and increased oversight, which he derided as one the of the worst pacts ever reached.
During his visit to the White House in February, Netanyahu thanked Trump for his “long overdue” confrontational stance toward Iran, while saying that he looked forward to working with the US president to “roll back Iran’s aggression and danger.”
Netanyahu, who has long railed against Iran, said on Sunday that his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday will focus largely on Iran and in particular its attempts to “entrench itself permanently in Syria” and “to establish a front against us in the Golan Heights.”
The Israeli statement did not say if the two discussed Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts or settlement building. Earlier on Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the TRump administration had sent a clear warning against Israeli annexation of West Bank land — a notion that has gained steam in far-right Israeli circles since Trump’s election.
“We received a direct message — not an indirect message and not a hint — from the United States. Imposing Israeli sovereignty on Judea and Samaria would mean an immediate crisis with the new administration,” Liberman said, shortly before departing for a working visit to the US.
Last week, Netanyahu was quoted by local media as telling a closed meeting that his attempts to coordinate settlement construction with the U.S. were “not as simple as you think they are.” His office declined requests for comment.
Palestinian officials, meanwhile, have barely had contact with the new administration.
Nabil Shaath, President Mahmoud Abbas’ foreign relations adviser, said the US position “regarding settlements on the Palestinian lands is not clear to us.”
“We need to hear from the US administration, from President Trump, directly about his positions,” he said.
Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha settlers Council, said he was “waiting patiently” for what he expects to be a favorable agreement between Israel and the White House on permissible settlement construction.
“I understand that it’s taking a bit longer than what may have been anticipated by some of my peers,” Revivi said. But he said Trump “seems to be a man of his word… We are still relying on what he promised.”