While acknowledging that any meeting between an Israeli prime minister and an American president is a “momentous event,” Monday’s scheduled meeting between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington occurs at a time when the United States and Israel “have never had such a deep confluence of interests,” current Israeli Deputy Minister and former ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren told a press briefing  on Sunday. The press briefing was hosted by The Israel Project, which publishes The Tower.
Oren explained that the meeting is marked by issues that are “particularly profound” for both nations. Of special interest to Trump is achieving what he calls “the deal of the century,” between Israel, the Palestinians and the Sunni states, to which he has assigned three or four special envoys. Netanyahu’s main concern in his talk with the president, Oren said, will be Iran.
In the case of Iran, Netanyahu will present Trump with his ideas concerning the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic. Netanyahu, Oren recounted, has supported Trump’s ultimatum he told Congress and the Europeans to “either fix the deal or he would nix the deal.” Netanyahu has insisted on at least three major fixes to address weaknesses in the deal. These fixes would include stricter sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, the elimination of sunset clauses which would allow Tehran at the end of eight or ten years to enrich enough uranium for “many dozens” of nuclear weapons, and to allow United Nations inspectors to conduct surprise inspection at all nuclear sites in Iran, including military sites.
In addition, Oren said that Netanyahu would be seeking “American backing” if Israel finds itself having to fight Iran and its proxies to its north. These threats emerge from Iranian attempts to build permanent military in Syria, a submarine base on the Mediterranean, and workshops in residential areas that could give Hezbollah’s massive missile arsenal even greater precision, presenting a “strategic challenge” to Israel.
Israel would be looking for not just “tactical support,” Oren said, but also “moral and legal support,” in the case that Israel is forced to fight back and civilians are harmed because Iran’s armaments were placed nearby.
Oren rejected the conventional wisdom that Netanyahu and Trump need each other to boost their popularity at home. However, he said in recent weeks both leaders have seen large surges in popularity despite ongoing investigations. “I can think of no time, certainly in my memory,” Oren said, “where the two countries have had such a deep confluence of interests and goals.”
In response to a reporter’s question, Oren dismissed the idea that Trump would accept a European plan to allow fixes to the deal over time, instead of scrapping it. Oren said that Israel was not concerned that Trump would renege on his commitment and reiterated that the changes Israel insists on will improve its security, as well as regional and world security.
A complete recording of the briefing is embedded below.
[Photo: The White House / Facebook ]