Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are meeting separately with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday in sessions that could set the tone for relations between the allied countries during the next presidential administration.
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Trump met Sunday with Netanyahu at Trump Tower, where he lives. Clinton also was expected to meet with the prime minister in New York on the eve of the first debate between the candidates. The Israeli leader has sought to project neutrality this time after perceptions arose that he favored Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama in 2012.
The one-on-one discussions will follow what was likely Netanyahu’s final meeting with Obama last week, capping what has been a sometimes rocky relationship between the leaders of the two allies.
The Obama administration has opposed Israel’s push to expand settlements in the West Bank while Netanyahu has been a leading critic of the US nuclear agreement with Iran. More recently, Netanyahu has urged Obama to avoid pushing for a Palestinian state in his final months in office.
Clinton has supported a negotiated two-state solution in the region, vowed to enforce the Iran nuclear agreement and help defend Israel’s security. The former secretary of state suggested in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 earlier this month that the Islamic State group was “rooting for Donald Trump’s victory” and he had helped strengthen the hands of extremists by his provocative statements about Muslims.
Trump has been a fierce critic of the Iran nuclear agreement and promised during a speech to AIPAC earlier this year that he would deepen ties between the two countries if he was elected president, adding the days of “treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on day one.” But he also raised eyebrows when he questioned Israel’s commitment to a peace deal last year and said he didn’t want to show any bias in favor of one side or the other.
The meetings will also come after the US recently completed a 10-year, $38 billion military aid package for Israel. Clinton said in a statement that it would help “solidify and chart a course for the US-Israeli defense relationship in the 21st century as we face a range of common challenges.”