President Donald Trump and the first lady received Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah at the White House Monday, March 5, with exceptional warmth and a full agenda.
The two leaders quickly got down to business on three issues:
- Representatives of the US administration and leading European governments are scheduled to meet in Berlin on March 15 to compare notes on the changes required in the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran to avoid an American walkout.
Some European leaders, led by French President Emmanuel Macron, have undertaken to try and persuade the government in Tehran to agree to placing limitations on its ballistic missile program as a means of avoiding pressure to change the nuclear accord. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is currently in Tehran on this mission, Macron also personally tackled President Hassan Rouhani in an effort to downscale Iranian military intervention in Syria and Yemen. However, Tehran made it clear in a statement on Sunday that it rejects any interference in its regional activities.
- The peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, which President Trump is still holding up his sleeve. The president reiterated in reply to reporters’ questions that having recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he has removed a thorny issue and made the negotiations easier. Asked what happens if the Palestinians refuse to come to the table, he rapped out: “Then there’ll be no peace.”
DEBKAfile’s sources report that Netanyahu advised the president to hold back on unveiling his peace plan since, as matters stand at present, the Palestinians are almost sure to reject it, so why take the chance. Trump replied that he will take this under consideration.
- This item is perhaps the weightiest of all to be raised in the Trump-Netanyahu talks: The US military presence in Syria at points east of the River Euphrates up to the Iraqi border and in the Kurdish regions in the north. Netanyahu believes that Israel could have no better US guarantee for preventing Iran taking up a permanent military presence in Syria. The Israeli prime minister therefore asked the president not only to keep US forces in Syria, but if possible to bolster them to compensate for the Kurdish YPG militiamen heading out of their cantons to support their countrymen in battle against the Turkish invaders of Afrin. On Monday, US operations against ISIS in eastern Syria were halted for that reason.
There is no information as yet on how President Trump responded to the Israeli appeal.