United States President Donald Trump has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington next month, the president's office said. This is the first conversation being quoted by the office ever since Trump assumed presidency.
Hours before Trump's call, Israel approved hundreds of new settler homes in east Jerusalem. However, the plan to annex a large part of the West Bank Jewish settlement was unilaterally shelved until the Trump-Netanyahu meeting.
"President Trump invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to come to Washington to meet him in February. A final date for the visit will be set in the days ahead," the office in a statement said.
The White House in a statement said that the two leaders spoke over the phone and "agreed to continue to closely consult on a range of regional issues, including addressing the threats posed by Iran." The conversation suggests that Trump's administration will take a tougher stance on the issue.
Trump did not elaborate on the conversation details and told the reporters at the White House that the conversation between the duo was "very nice." However, there was no mention of Trump's earlier suggestion of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, AFP reported. Despite the city's contested status, Trump, during his campaign, had supported Israel and said that he would recognise Jerusalem as the country's official capital.
"We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject," White House press secretary Sean Spicer told AFP when asked of the US embassy's relocation status in Israel.
"The two leaders discussed the nuclear deal with Iran, the peace process with the Palestinians and other issues. 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," Netanyahu's office said.
Israel in the 1967 war had captured the Arab east Jerusalem and annexed it later. However, the annexation is not recognised by the international community. The country declared the entire city as its unified capital, but Palestine says that east Jerusalem is the capital of their future state. Israel is building settlements in Jerusalem despite the United Nations' warning.
Although the US is a strong ally of Israel as it supplies the country with more than $3 billion per year in defence aid, former US president Barack Obama grew frustrated with Israel's continuous efforts of settlement building and declined to veto a UN resolution condemning the settlements on December 23. Trump, however, has said that the UN resolution should be vetoed by him.
Soon after Trump's inauguration, Israeli officials approved building permits for 566 settler homes in annexed east Jerusalem on Sunday.
"The rules of the game have changed with Donald Trump's arrival as president. We no longer have our hands tied as in the time of Barack Obama. Now we can finally build," Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meir Turjeman told AFP.
The presidency of Palestine, however, condemned the move and calling it a violation of the UN resolution reached last year in December.