Trump, Netanyahu Discuss Iran, Annexing Jordan Valley in Call After U.S. Military Visits to Israel

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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U.S. President Donald Trump and visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk along the Colonnade of the White House in Washington, on March 25, 2019.
U.S. President Donald Trump and visiting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk along the Colonnade of the White House in Washington, on March 25, 2019.Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta,AP
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke on the phone on Sunday, focusing on Iran and other regional issues, the White House said in a statement.

This is the second time the two leaders have spoken in recent weeks. 

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Netanyahu later detailed the conversation on Monday, saying it was "very important for Israel's safety. We spoke about Iran, and we also talked extensively about historic opportunities we have ahead of us in the coming months."

Among them, Netanyahu said, was recognizing the Jordan Valley as Israel's official eastern border, as well as a "defense pact with the U.S. Things we could only dream about, but we have the chance of realizing."

Netanyahu said this was the reason he made Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz an offer to execute these "historic chances in a unity government that will be formed now according to the outline I proposed," which he did not elaborate on. 

In mid-November Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. is softening its position on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and that they don't violate international law. Netanyahu then called Trump to thank him for the decision. 

The call in November was the first between the two leaders after almost two months, following Netanyahu's failure to secure a majority for the right-wing religious bloc after Israel's September 17 election. 

While political analysts in Israel speculated at the time that Pompeo's statement and the Netanyahu-Trump call that followed were an attempt by the American administration to help the premier in his efforts to form a government, the White House has denied those allegations.

Two days after the call, Netanyahu was indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases, further complicating the political situation in Israel. 

In recent weeks, several high-ranking U.S. military officials either visited Israel or met with their counterparts in the Israeli army. These meetings mainly revolved around Iran and the growing tensions over Tehran's activities in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. 

In October the prime minister said that Iran is "seeking to tighten its grip in Lebanon, in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen and in the Gaza Strip. It is incessantly arming itself, equipping its offshoots with dangerous weaponry, assaulting freedom of navigation in international shipping lanes. It has downed a large American unmanned aerial vehicle and carried out a blatant and unprecedented attack on oil fields in Saudi Arabia."

However, Netanyahu added that Israel will "always remember and follow the basic rule that guides us: Israel will defend itself by itself in the face of every threat."

Noa Landau contributed to this report.

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