Israel's prime minister on Sunday accepted an invitation to visit the White House next month in hopes of forging a "common vision" for the region with President Donald Trump that could include expanded settlement construction on occupied territories and a tougher policy toward Iran.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his plans to head to Washington in early February hours after delaying a vote on an explosive proposal to annex one of the West Bank's largest settlements, apparently to coordinate his policy toward the Palestinians with the new administration.
The move put on hold legislation that threatens to unleash fresh violence and damage already faded hopes for Palestinian independence. It also may have marked Trump's first presidential foray into Middle East diplomacy.
After eight years of frosty relations with President Barack Obama, Netanyahu has welcomed Trump's election as an opportunity to strengthen ties between the two allies. Israeli media reported that Netanyahu was gearing up plans to expand settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem — a policy that had been condemned by Obama.
Late Sunday, the two men held what Netanyahu's office described as a "very warm conversation" by phone. It said they discussed the international nuclear deal with Iran, which both men have harshly criticized, and the Palestinian issue.
"The prime minister 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," the statement said. It said a date for Netanyahu's visit would be finalized in the coming days.