After years of tense relations, Netanyahu most coveted meeting in D.C.
After years of tense relations with the United States under former President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is emerging as one of the most prominent international personalities, according to multiple sources who told the Washington Free Beacon that Democrats, Republicans, and high-level White House officials are clamoring for a sit down with the Israeli leader when he arrives in town on Tuesday.
Senior officials across party lines hope to let Netanyahu know that America has Israel’s back and that years of tension during the Obama administration is just water under the bridge, according to both congressional sources and those close to the Trump administration.
Netanyahu’s schedule is already packed with powwows between President Trump, senior administration officials, and a cast of leading lawmakers on Capitol Hill from both sides of the aisle.
Meetings will center on U.S. lawmakers’ desire to reset relations with the Jewish state. Multiple sources told the Free Beacon that sit downs with White House officials will focus on holding Iran accountable for violations of the nuclear deal, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and combatting efforts at the United Nations to delegitimize Israel.
Netanyahu already has confirmed a 6:30 p.m. dinner Tuesday evening with newly installed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The meeting will take place inside the State Department.
Netanyahu is expected to meet with Trump and other senior officials Wednesday before heading to Capitol Hill, where he will meet with leading Democrats and Republicans.
Netanyahu is expected to take separate meetings with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), sources told the Free Beacon.
Further meetings could take place with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before Netanyahu travels to the House side of the Capitol for an evening meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.).
There is a strong desire among all parties to show Netanyahu that after nearly a decade of chilly relations during the former administration, the United States is prepared to restore the historic relationship with the Jewish state.
“Netanyahu’s schedule is so full that he literally can’t find time for all the high level meetings people want to have with him,” said one veteran foreign policy adviser who is closely in touch with the White House on Middle East issues. “The truth of this is, it’s nature taking its course.”
Recent polling shows that support for Israel is at an all-time high among Democrats and Republicans. Democratic lawmakers in particular are no longer being pressured by the former administration to distance themselves from Netanyahu and Israel.
“Without Obama trying to force Democratic lawmakers to choose between Israel and the United States nature is taking its course and everyone wants to see how they can help bolster the U.S.-Israel relationship,” the source said. “Voters want to see this.”
One source characterized Netanyahu as the “cool kid in town.”
On Capitol Hill, senior sources focused on the Middle East expect that lawmakers will emphasize a reset in relations with Israel. They also will seek to reassure Netanyahu that key foreign aid packages to Israel will remain robust and fully funded.
“There’s broad recognition that it’s time to turn a page on years of hostility towards Israel from the Obama administration. President Trump and the Republican Congress are focused on strengthening Israel’s security and the U.S.-Israel relationship—not condemning housing projects in disputed territories and pushing anti-Semitic U.N. resolutions,” said one senior congressional aide familiar with the Israeli leader’s travel itinerary.
“This provides a major opportunity for both the United States and Israel to stand up to Iran and all those who seek to defame and destroy the Jewish state,” the source said. “Given the warm relationship between Bibi and Trump, everyone seems upbeat and optimistic about the future of the alliance moving forward.”
Dennis Ross, a veteran Middle East hand who worked for former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama, told reporters on Monday that there is a strong desire to cast sour relations between the United States and Israel as a byproduct of the Obama administration.
That, Ross said during a conference call hosted by the Israel Project, is the “overriding message that emerges from this week,”
“Democrats will be anxious to show they’re close to Israel as well,” Ross said, adding that Netanyahu will convey the message that Israel’s relationship is with America as a whole, not any one administration.