‘True friends’ Trump, Netanyahu reunite today

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By Middle East Affairs

In the face of growing legal problems and calls for a resignation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Monday a man he calls his “true friend” — U.S. President Donald Trump.

The reason for their friendship might trace back to how similar these men seem lately.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal U.S. pro-Israel advocacy group critical of both Trump and Netanyahu, elaborated a bit to AFP.

“The fascinating thing is how strong the parallels are between Trump and Netanyahu” at this moment, he told the news agency. “This swirl of corruption and investigation, the conflict of interest, is at the center of both administrations. You see both men respond in the same way — attacks on fundamental institutions of democracy like the judiciary and the media.”

Gayil Talshir, political scientist at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, agreed.

“I think they are partners in ideology, and the ideology is a populist, conservative ideology which says that the old liberal elites are against us,” she told AFP. “I think from that perspective it is a boost” for Netanyahu.

Besides shared legal problems, such as current accusations against the Israeli prime minister for bribery, as well as accusations against Trump for bribing Russia during the U.S. elections, the two have other reasons for their friendship.

Trump announced in December he would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move frowned upon by much of the international community.

Palestinians view eastern Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and Trump’s decision has sparked protests and clashes.

The U.S. embassy will move to Jerusalem in May, coinciding with Israel’s 70th founding anniversary, and Netanyahu mentioned before boarding a plane Saturday that he will invite Trump to be there for the opening.

One concern for Palestinians is the peace plan that the Trump administration intends to present to Israel and Palestine.

According to Haaretz, the Palestinian Authority believes Netanyahu is pushing for Trump to present the plan very soon. A senior Palestinian official told the news agency that information about the plan has been obtained and it looks like a plan that Palestine would reject immediately, “enabling both Netanyahu and the U.S. administration to paint the Palestinians as paece rejectionists.”

Still, others think Netanyahu is not as concerned about this topic during his visit. White House spokesman Joshua Raffel told reporters that the two will discuss “efforts to thwart Iran’s attempt to establish a permanent presence in Syria from which to threaten Israel, and the administration’s ongoing peace efforts.”

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