Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Washington for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump amid calls by right-wing members of his government to annex part, if not all, of Area C of the West Bank, otherwise known as Judea and Samaria.
Netanyahu did not address the complicated issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when he landed at Andrews Air Force Base and when he left Ben-Gurion International Airport earlier in the day.
He focused instead on the global US-Israel relationship and the strong ties that he has with Trump, who he has known since the 1980s, telling reporters that he believed their Wednesday meeting would be a “positive” one. As a sign of the warm feelings between the two men, Netanyahu is staying at the presidential guest quarters, Blair House, arriving there by motorcade immediately after landing.
He has already begun consultations with his advisors for his meeting with Trump, including Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.
Wednesday’s meeting in the White House, the first since Trump’s inauguration, will help define the policy agendas of both countries on integral issues such as Iran, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been persistent sources of tension between Netanyahu and former president Barack Obama.
The two leaders are expected to be largely on the same page on these two specific issues, even though there remain points of disagreement.
Complicating matters was Monday night’s resignation of Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn. who had helped coordinate the visit with his Israeli counterparts, particularly the parts of the meetings that deal with Iran.
On Sunday, Netanyahu told the weekly government meeting that security issues were his top priority, but members of his party and the coalition’s right flank, the Bayit Yehudi party, have focused on the Israeli-Palestinian issue arguing that now is the right time to redefine the conflict.
Some 12 Likud ministers and parliamentarians called on him to introduce the idea of annexation into the meeting.
Right-wing politicians have also called on Netanyahu to renounce the idea of a Palestinian state and to push for US acceptance of Israel’s right to build anywhere in Area C of the West Bank, which at present is under Israeli military and civilian rule.
Netanyahu has already privately told ministers that he plans to stand by his support for a two-state solution. Its expected that he will advance a much more cautious plan of US support for construction in the settlement blocs.
It is a move that is consistent with past US policy, as outlined under the Clinton parameters. It would also allow Trump to push forward with plans to renew the peace process, even though the Palestinians have insisted that they will not hold direct talks with Israel unless it freezes all Jewish building over the pre-1967 lines including in Jerusalem.