Globe Briefs February 3

Globe Briefs February 3

Netanyahu and Trump to meet Feb. 15

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 15.

Trump “looks forward to discussing strategic technological military and intelligence cooperation with the prime minister,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday at the daily briefing for reporters.

“Our relationship with the only democracy in the Middle East is crucial to the security of both our nations,” Spicer said.

Netanyahu confirmed and welcomed the invitation.

“I deeply appreciate President Trump’s kind invitation to come to Washington and the warm words about Israel,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to discussing with him the areas of cooperation between us that are so vital to the security and well-being of our two countries.”

Trump and Netanyahu are expected to discuss a range of issues where Israel and the Obama administration had strong disagreement, including the Iran nuclear deal, settlements policy and moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

This weekend, Trump suggested he was less enthusiastic about moving the embassy than he was during the campaign, when he pledged to do so, or even in the days leading up to his Jan. 20 inauguration, when he repeated the pledge.

“I’m looking at it, we’re studying it, as you know we’ve discussed this before,” Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network in an interview broadcast Saturday. “We’re studying it very long and hard. You know it’s a very big decision because every president for the last number of presidents, large number, they’ve come in and they were going to do it and then all of a sudden they decide they don’t want to get involved.”

Trump and his spokesman have said since the inauguration that they are at the early stages of deciding on when to move, but Trump’s CBN interview was the clearest sign yet he is reconsidering the idea.

“I’ve always liked the concept of doing it, I’ll tell you that. I’ll have a decision in the not-too-distant future,” Trump said. “There’s certainly a chance of it, absolutely, but we’re doing very detailed studies on that and we’ll come out very soon.”

Vice President Mike Pence, meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Washington, discussed the embassy issue and told the king that discussion was still in its “early stages,” Spicer said at the news briefing.

Trump’s nominated ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, one of Trump’s longtime lawyers, has said he would prefer working from Jerusalem.

Congress recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 1995, but presidents have since then exercised a waiver should the move pose a risk to national security.

Netanyahu wants to reverse the sanctions relief for the nuclear rollback deal reached last year between Iran and six major powers. Trump has said it is a bad agreement but has not indicated he will pull out of it.

Last week, Netanyahu announced major building launches in the settlements and in eastern Jerusalem, shortly after the Obama administration in its final month allowed through a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning settlements.

Mexico summons Israeli envoy over Netanyahu wall tweet

Mexico summoned Israel’s ambassador for a meeting with its foreign minister over a tweet by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seen as supporting President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall at the Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants.

On Monday, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray called on Netanyahu to apologize for the tweet, Haaretz reported. “We hope that the Israeli government will have the sensitivity to correct Netanyahu’s statement,” said Videgaray, who will meet with the Israeli diplomat Monday evening.

The summons, which the Foreign Ministry of Israel on Monday called an invitation, comes a day after Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The Foreign Ministry expressed to the government of Israel, via its ambassador in Mexico, its profound astonishment, rejection and disappointment over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s message on Twitter about the construction of a border wall. Mexico is a friend of Israel and should be treated as such by its Prime Minister.”

On Saturday morning, Netanyahu said on Twitter that “President Trump is right.”

“I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea,” Netanyahu said in a tweet that featured the American and Israeli flag icons. The White House later retweeted the message.

Following Mexico’s criticism of Israel, the Prime Minister’s Office and Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement to clarify the original tweet, saying that Netanyahu “was addressing Israel’s unique circumstances and the important experience we have and which we are willing to share with other nations. There was no attempt to voice an opinion regarding U.S.-Mexico ties.”

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri tweeted in Hebrew and Spanish on Sunday: “I just now spoke with PM Netanyahu on the need to continue warm relations between Israel and Mexico. The PM told me that Israel will not interfere in the dispute between the US and Mexico on funding the fence. We will continue to strengthen the relations with Mexico in which much of the Jewish people live in dignity.”

On Sunday, Deri posted a tweet in which he commended the prime minister for clarifying his message about the proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

At the start of a weekly Likud faction meeting on Monday, Netanyahu reiterated that his tweet did not have anything to do with Mexico and that it was a response to Trump’s praise of Israel’s border wall during a television interview on Fox News.

Netanyahu said the media furor over the tweet is no surprise.

“The media is left wing, mobilized on a Bolshevik hunt [against me], [dedicated to] brainwashing, and character assassination against me and my family,” he said, according to The Times of Israel reporter present at the meeting.

Netanyahu accused the media of providing a “flood of fake news,” and said it is pressuring the attorney general “to indict me at any price,” referring to a reported four investigations currently open against him.