Politics

Trump says he discussed a mutual defense treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Key Points
  • President Trump's call comes just three days before Israel's election. Netanyahu faces a tough re-election bid after a more than 13-year tenure as Israel's prime minister.
  • The right-wing leader has promised that if re-elected, he would extend Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements and up to a third of the occupied West Bank.
  • The controversial move would encircle the 2.5 million Palestinians living there and make a two-state solution more difficult.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after Trump's address at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem May 23, 2017.
Ronen Zvulun | Reuters

President Donald Trump on Saturday said he discussed potentially moving forward with a mutual defense treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"I had a call today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of moving forward with a Mutual Defense Treaty, between the United States and Israel, that would further anchor the tremendous alliance between our two countries," the president tweeted. 

"I look forward to continuing those discussions after the Israeli Elections when we meet at the United Nations later this month!"

The call comes just three days before Israel's election. Netanyahu faces a tough re-election bid after a more than 13-year tenure as prime minister. 

The right-wing leader has promised that if re-elected, he would extend Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements and up to a third of the occupied West Bank. The controversial move would encircle the 2.5 million Palestinians living there and make a two-state solution more difficult.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967. Past U.S. administrations have viewed the Israeli settlements in the West Bank as an impediment to a possible peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, and much of the world considers the settlements to be illegal. 

Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. The U.S. has provided Israel $142.3 billion in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding, according to the Congressional Research Service. In 2019, the U.S. will provide Israel with $3.3 billion in military assistance.

American attitudes toward Israel's government are divided. In April 2019, the Pew Research Center released survey results showing that by nearly two-to-one, Republicans have a favorable view of Israel's government.

In contrast, two-thirds of Democrats view Israel's government unfavorably, while just 26% have a favorable opinion. 

Trump also said on Friday that he doesn't believe Israel is spying on the U.S., following a report that said Israel was mostly likely behind cellphone surveillance devices found near the White House and elsewhere in Washington D.C. Israel denied the report.