Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 October 2019

Trump and Netanyahu discuss defence treaty days before Israeli vote

The US president has repeatedly boasted that he is the most pro-Israeli US president in history

US President Donald Trump said he believes the Israeli elections will be "close". AP
US President Donald Trump said he believes the Israeli elections will be "close". AP

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday discussed the possibility of moving forward on a defence treaty, just three days before Israeli voters go to the polls.

In a tweet, Mr Trump said such an agreement would "further anchor the tremendous alliance" between the two countries.

"I look forward to continuing those discussions after the Israeli Elections when we meet at the United Nations later this month!" Trump said, giving a tacit last-minute endorsement to Netanyahu's re-election bid.

The comments come as the international community awaits the release of Washington's long-delayed Middle East peace plan, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said could come within weeks.

Its publication was pushed back after Israel scheduled new elections, set for Tuesday.

Then last week, one of the key architects of the US plan, Jason Greenblatt, announced his resignation.

Mr Trump has repeatedly boasted that he is the most pro-Israeli US president in history. He slashed aid to the Palestinians and made big concessions to the Israelis, including the formal recognition by the US of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

As a result, the Palestinian Authority has cut off formal contact with the Trump administration, saying it is not an honest broker.

So far, Mr Trump has not commented on Mr Netanyahu's controversial pledge to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley if re-elected — which would seem to go beyond US proposals for land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Netanyahu, 69, is fighting his second election in five months with a potential corruption indictment looming.

He suffered a major defeat in April, when his Likud party along with its right-wing and religious allies won a majority, but he failed to form a coalition.

After failing to form a coalition following the April 2019 vote, he passed a law to dissolve parliament and hold new elections, remaining prime minister in the interim.

The plethora of parties means that no faction has ever won an outright Knesset majority of 61 seats or more.

This means that after the votes are counted, the horse-trading begins, with larger parties or alliances wooing the smaller groups in an attempt to build a working coalition.

The president of Israel, currently Reuven Rivlin, is tasked with quizzing all parties after the results are declared to hear who they recommend to try and form a government.

Mr Netanyahu, who had previously been premier between 1996 and 1999, retained power in 2013 and 2015 elections.

Updated: September 15, 2019 02:27 PM

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