Trump ‘reaffirms’ US closeness to Israel

Donald Trump has followed his two-day Saudi Arabian stay with another two-day visit, this time in Israel.

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The US President was reunited with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a man he has long called an “old friend”.

Mr Trump says they reaffirmed the bond between their countries.

“We are more than friends, we are great allies. We have so many opportunities in front of us. But we must seize them together. We must take advantage of the situation and there are many, many things that can happen now that would never have been able to happen before and we understand that very well.”

On his first day in Israel, Donald Trump became the first sitting US president to visit Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

He placed his hands on the holiest prayer site in Judaism, and left a note in a crack in the wall.

And in his meetings with Benjamin Netanyahu, he again took aim at Iran, Israel’s long-term bitter rival.

Mr Netanyahu has repeatedly denounced a deal struck between the US and Iran under the Obama administration.

The 2015 agreement aims to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, in exchange for a relief in economic sanctions.

But the Israeli Prime Minister believes Iran will ignore the deal and build atomic bombs.

Donald Trump says he will ensure that won’t happen.

“The United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon, never ever, and must cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias and it must cease immediately. On those issues there is a strong consensus among the nations of the world, including many in the Muslim world.”

Tehran has repeatedly denied an intent to build atomic bombs.

Iran’s newly re-elected President, Hassan Rouhani, was sharp in his response to President Trump’s continued criticism.

“We are waiting for this (US) government to become stable intellectually, and in terms of its stances and its future plans. I hope it can settle down so that we can more accurately pass judgements on their leaders in Washington.”

Attention also turned to the generations-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Donald Trump reiterated he wants a peace deal between the sides, but remained vague about what form it should take.

“We are willing to work together. I believe that a new level of partnership is possible and will happen – one that will bring greater safety to this region, greater security to the United States, and greater prosperity to the world. This includes a renewed effort at peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And I thank the Prime Minister for his commitment to pursuing the peace process. He is working very hard at it – it’s not easy. I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all. But I have a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually.”

Benjamin Netanyahu said he shares Mr Trump’s commitment to peace.

“The peace we seek is a genuine and durable one in which the Jewish state is recognised. Security remains in Israel’s hands and the conflict ends once and for all.”

But analysts say many people on both sides of the conflict are deeply sceptical about the chances of progress.

Donald Trump is struggling to contain two scandals engulfing him back in the US, after firing James Comey as FBI director.

Last week the President admitted he shared sensitive security details with the Russian foreign minister.

That information was a provided by a partner state – without its permission – with the White House all but confirming that was Israel.

At the end of a meeting with Mr Netanyahu, Mr Trump made a point to mention it to reporters.

“Just so you understand I never mentioned the word or the name, Israel, never mentioned it during that conversation, they’re all saying I did, so you had another story wrong, never mentioned the word Israel.”

News outlets had not accused Mr Trump of naming Israel as the source of information in his meeting wih the Russians.

A special prosecutor has also been named to investigate Russia’s alleged involvement in last year’s presidential election.

Donald Trump will later meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.