Donald Trump meets Benjamin Netanyahu, promises recognition of East Jerusalem annexation


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in New York's Trump Tower for more than an hour on Sunday morning, during a meeting in which the real-estate billionaire reaffirmed his commitment to officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, NPR reported.

"Trump acknowledged that Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years, and that the U.S., under a Trump administration, will finally accept the long-standing congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the state of Israel," Trump's campaign wrote in a statement, which was released alongside a fairly extraordinary photo of Netanyahu and Trump shaking hands in the billionaire's gold-covered suite.

The Israeli military captured the eastern half of Jerusalem in 1967 from Jordan during the Arab-Israeli War. The government of Israel later annexed eastern Jerusalem in 1980, causing furor in the United Nations, which voted 14-0 to annul the law with the U.S. abstaining. In 1995, a newly triumphant Republican Congress passed a law recognizing Israel's claim to ownership of Jerusalem.

Every president since has waived implementation of the law under provisions built into it, regarding it as an infringement on the executive branch's foreign policy powers (and perhaps wary recognizing Jerusalem's claim to the mostly Palestinian territory, which is considered illegitimate by most of the international community, could cause a diplomatic crisis).

Trump, however, has promised to reverse all that. While Netanyahu will also be meeting with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to avoid the perception of bias, reported NPR, it's clear why Netanyahu might want to hear the theoretical future Republican president out based on this position alone.

U.S. recognition of the Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem might outrage both Israel's Arab neighbors as well as some of its Western allies, but would also cement a key goal of Netanyahu's right-wing administration, which has aggressively expanded settlements in disputed territories. Netanyahu has courted Republicans in Congress as well, addressing them directly in a 2015 speech which outraged Obama administration officials.

As the Washington Post reported at the time, there was "little doubt that Netanyahu would prefer a more hawkish Republican in the White House" than Clinton, with whom he has an uneasy relationship. But the possibility of a Trump presidency is also maybe not an appetizing prospect for Netanyahu, due to the candidate's widespread reputation as unpredictable and imprudent.