WASHINGTON - Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met on Tuesday with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the White House as part of a two-day working visit to Washington. According to an official statement, Lieberman told Pence during the meeting that he “expects to see the U.S. Embassy [in Israel] at its new location in Jerusalem soon" and thanked Pence and the Trump administration for supporting Israel.
"We have true friends in the White House," Lieberman said after the meeting. He added that "the United States under President Donald Trump is a true partner of Israel's in facing the different challenges in the region, first among them the Iranian issue." The defense chiefs also discussed Iran's latest missile tests – an issue that dominated a phone call on Monday between Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Lieberman thanked Pence for his strong denouncement of recent anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S., in particular Pence’s visit to a Jewish cemetery that was vandalized near St. Louis, Missouri. Lieberman said Pence's help in cleaning the cemetery and repairing the damage proved that there is "zero tolerance" for anti-Semitism in the U.S. A few hours before Lieberman’s arrival, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer strongly denounced a new wave of anti-Semitic incidents that took place on Tuesday, calling them "hate crimes" and promising to out an end to the phenomenon.
Before heading to Washington, Lieberman told members of the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee that the Trump administration warned Israel not to annex areas of the West Bank. "We received a direct message imposing Israeli sovereignty [on the West Bank] would mean an immediate crisis with the new administration," Lieberman said. "The coalition should clearly state that there is no intention to impose [Israeli] sovereignty."
The defense chief referred to recent calls by lawmakers, including by Miki Zohar (Likud), a member of the governing coalition, to annex the West Bank. "I'm getting calls from all of the world wanting to know if this is the position of the coalition," said Lieberman. "As far of my opinion is concerned, we need to separate from the Palestinians and not to integrate them. The decision to annex Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) would mean the integration of 2.7 million Palestinians in Israel," the defense chief said.
Also on Tuesday, Lieberman met with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis. According to an official statement, Lieberman told Mattis that America’s current positions are important “to remove obstacles to stability in the Middle East.” He also urged the Trump Administration to seize opportunities to strengthen moderate forces in the region, adding that Israel needs “an active America in our region.” On Wednesday Lieberman is expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
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