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Trump says he may attend Jerusalem embassy opening

March 5, 2018

In December, Trump reversed decades of US policy to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu termed the decision "historic" during his meeting with US president on Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands with US President Donald Trump
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP Photo/E. Vucci

US President Donald Trump on Monday said he might travel to Israel to attend the opening ceremony of a new US Embassy in Jerusalem. 

Trump made the statement during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office.

"We're looking at coming," Trump said. "If I can, I will."

Netanyahu heralded Trump's decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

"This will be remembered by our people through the ages," Netanyahu said during brief remarks.

Iran dominates talks

Trump's push to modify or scrap Iran's 2015 nuclear deal and concerns over Tehran's growing foothold in Syria featured prominently during the talks.

"If I had to say what is our greatest challenge in the Middle East to both our countries, to our Arab neighbors, it’s encapsulated in one word: Iran," Netanyahu said. "Iran must be stopped. That is our common challenge."

Read more: Opinion: America First. America Alone.

Netanyahu is in Washington for the annual conference of AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, and is due to speak at the conference later in the week.

Top-ranking US officials including Vice President Mike Pence and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley will also address the conference.

The meeting also provides a chance for Netanyahu to steer away from corruption investigations in Israel and towards his biggest foreign policy priority, combatting Iran. 

Donald Trump and the Iran nuclear deal: Henning Riecke (German Council on Foreign Relations) speaks to DW

Concern over Iran nuclear deal

Israel has expressed concern over Trump's pledge to dismantle the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with one key concern being the possibility that the US might accept Iran's increasing presence in Syria and influence in Lebanon, two Israeli neighbors.

Read more: Opinion: The twisted logic of the war in Syria

Netanyahu: 'This is the greatest threat to our world'

There is worry that Trump might push new restrictions aimed at preventing Iran from developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US but will allow Iran to keep developing medium-range ballistic missiles that could strike Israel.

Read more: What is the Iran nuclear deal?

European countries have been hesitant about the possibility of medium-range missile restrictions, arguing that existing UN resolutions on Iran only focus on longer-range projectiles.

US officials negotiating with Britain, France and Germany seem to agree with the Europeans, which has caused Israel concern.

US peace efforts 'slap of the century'

Trump's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital has outraged Palestinians, who see Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Trump's long-awaited peace plan is yet to be completed and even so, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for an end to the United States' usual role as mediator between Israel and Palestine.

"It has become impossible today for one country or state alone to solve a regional or international conflict," Abbas said in February at a UN Security Council conference of the Middle East. "It is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference."

In another confidence blow to the plan, Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law who is behind the proposal, is under scrutiny over his business dealings as special counsel Robert Mueller plows ahead with his Russia probe. Indeed, Kushner has had his White House security clearance stripped back.

In January, Abbas described Trump's peace efforts for the Middle East and Jerusalem as the "slap of the century" and confirmed reports that the US had proposed the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis to the Palestinians as an alternative capital of a future state.

"Our eternal capital is Jerusalem, and we will not accept what is being offered to us to make Abu Dis the capital of Palestine instead of the city of Jerusalem," Abbas said.

law/rc (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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