US president Donald Trump has said Israel’s Arab neighbours are realising they share a “common cause” with Israel over the threat from Iran. Mr Trump is urging the US and Israel to boost cooperation against common threats, and declared that Iran should never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.
He said Iran – Israel’s chief enemy in the Middle East – must also cease funding, training and supplying weapons to terrorist groups and militias. Speaking during his first visit to Israel as US president, Mr Trump said there is strong consensus on these issues among the world’s nations, including many in the Muslim world.
Mr Trump also thanked Israel’s leaders for being committed to achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians. On Tuesday, the US leader will meet Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. Arriving directly from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Mr Trump expressed his hope for cooperation among US allies in the Middle East.
His second stop on his nine-day tour aims to test the waters for reviving the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Mr Trump, who had previously suggested that it would be easier than anticipated to solve the conflict which has vexed his predecessors for decades, said conditions are right in both Israel and the Arab world to strike what he has called “the ultimate deal”.
Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, Mr Trump said: “We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and to its people.” Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Mr Trump “a true friend” to Israel and expressed optimism about the president’s role in the Middle East peace process.
Mr Trump’s first stop was a meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin. In a statement following the meeting, Mr Trump addressed his meetings the previous day with Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia, and said that there is growing realisation that they share a “common cause with you” in their determination to defeat extremism and deter “the threat posed by Iran.”
However, obstacles have emerged which may complicate the relationship between the White House and the Knesset. The US leader may face questions from Israeli officials about revelations that he disclosed sensitive Israeli intelligence to Russian officials, and concerns over the new $110bn arms deal he announced with the Saudis.
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, speaking to reporters on board Air Force One, said the US could provide clarifications to Israel about the disclosure but said: “I don’t know that there’s anything to apologise for.”