Trump Tells Netanyahu: Israeli-Palestinian Peace Only Through Direct Negotiations

In 'very warm' first phone call since taking office, U.S. president invites Israeli premier to Washington in February.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President-elect Donald Trump.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump. Joe Raedle/Getty Images, AFP, Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

U.S. President Donald Trump told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that peace between Israel and the Palestinians could only be reached through direct negotiations. In their first phone call since Trump took office, the U.S. president invited Netanyahu to Washington on February.

"[P]eace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties," Trump told Netanyahu, adding that "the United States will work closely with Israel to make progress towards that goal."

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Netanyahu "expressed his desire to work closely with President Trump to forge a common vision to advance peace and security in the region, with no daylight between the United States and Israel," said a statement from Netanyahu's bureau.

A statement by the White House said that Trump emphasized the importance the U.S. sees in its "close military, intelligence, and security cooperation with Israel," as well as the "deep and abiding partnership between the two countries." The U.S. President and the prime minister agreed to continue consulting closely on a number of issues, including the Iranian threat.

"The President affirmed his unprecedented commitment to Israel's security and stressed that countering ISIL and other radical Islamic terrorist groups will be a priority for his Administration," the White House statement said, referring to the Islamic State group by one of its acronyms.

The conversation between the two was "very warm," sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau said. "The two leaders discussed the nuclear deal with Iran, the peace process with the Palestinians and other issues," said the statement.

Trump also invited Netanayhu to meet him in Washington in February. A final date for the visit will be set in the days ahead, said the statement.

Asked about the conversation by reporters at the White House, Trump said it was "very nice."

>> Read more: Trump White House 'at very beginning stages of even discussing' embassy move to Jerusalem >>

The subject of moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was not mentioned in the statement released by the Prime Minister's Office or in the one published by the White House, and it is unclear whether the issue was discussed during the conversation.

Ahead of the conversation, Netanyahu opened Sunday's diplomatic-security cabinet meeting by congratulating Trump. Netanyahu said he would like to discuss the Palestinian issue, the situation in Syria and the Iranian threat with Trump.

Also on Sunday, the White House said that the administration was "at the very beginning stages of even discussing" the subject of moving the U.S embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Last week, a day before Trump entered office, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press conference that details regarding the embassy move - one of Trump's election pledges - will be published "soon" and told the reporters covering the issue to "stay tuned." His statement Sunday, coming shortly before Trump holds a phone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, seems to suggest it might take some time before more details on the subject are released.