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Trump, Netanyahu to meet in Washington on March 5th, White House official says

US President Donald Trump, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017.
Meeting comes as first cracks in Trump, Netanyahu alliance appear over alleged annexation proposal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet US President Donald Trump at the White House next month along with attending the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, D.C.

A White House official confirmed the meeting will take place on March 5th, on the sidelines of the AIPAC event, where the Israeli premiere will deliver a speech. 

The two leaders last met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January.

Their March meeting comes after the first cracks in the apparently infallible relationship between the two leaders were exposed earlier this month, when Washington flatly shot down Netanyahu’s claim that Israel and the US were discussing proposals for annexing West Bank settlements.

Netanyahu was quoted as telling fellow lawmakers that "for some time I have been discussing the subject with the Americans".

Nicholas Kamm (AFP)

Netanyahu's claim drew an unusually sharp rebuff from the White House, which reportedly demanded that he backtrack.

"Reports that the United States discussed with Israel an annexation plan for the West Bank are false," spokesman Josh Raffel said. "The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the President’s focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative."

The unprecedented rebuke came only a few short weeks after Trump rejected Netanyahu’s claim that the US embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem would take place "within a year."

Washington signaled Wednesday that the hiccup had already been put behind them, with a White House official telling Israel’s Hadashot news that the annexation spat is “already water under the bridge and has no consequence to our relationship with Netanyahu.”

“The president has a tremendous relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu and looks forward to meeting with him. This was a long-planned meeting,” another White House official told The Times of Israel.

Brendan Smialowski (AFP)

The March meeting will also be the first since police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for bribery, breach of trust, and fraud in two corruption investigations into his affairs. The US has dismissed the recommendations as an “internal Israeli matter.”

Trump’s appearance at the 2016 AIPAC conference as then-presidential candidate was both a highlight and point of contention at the gathering organized by Washington's most influential pro-Israel lobby.

It was during his 2016 speech to the pro-Israel conference where he vowed to "move the embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem."

Trump did not appear at the 2017 conference, sending Vice President Mike Pence to speak on his behalf.

The 2018 AIPAC policy conference, the largest pro-Israel talk shop in America, will be held March 4-6 in Washington D.C.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is slated to speak, as are Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, Likud lawmaker Sharren Haskel, and opposition Zionist Union lawmaker Ksenia Svetlova.


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