Trump welcomes Israel’s Netanyahu for Middle East talks

President Donald Trump will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Wednesday, their first meeting since the inauguration and one that promises to shape the contours of Middle East policy for the years ahead.

On the agenda are some of the region’s most volatile issues: the war in Syria, the Iran nuclear file and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Israel’s settlement-building on occupied land and whether a Palestinian state will ever emerge.

Netanyahu, under investigation at home over allegations of abuse of office, spent much of Tuesday huddled with senior advisers in Washington preparing for the talks. Officials said they wanted no gaps to emerge between U.S. and Israeli thinking during the scheduled two-hour Oval Office meeting.

Dennis Ross, an Iran specialist and a Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, said both parties had a vested interest in a successful meeting.

“It’s going to succeed in no small part because both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu have a very big stake in wanting to demonstrate that whatever the problems were with the last administration, they are now gone,” Ross said in a briefing organized by The Israel Project, an advocacy group. “And that in no small part they were attributable to the last administration, meaning to President Obama.”

Social media exchanges suggested a budding bromance between Netanyahu and Trump, who has pledged to be the “best friend” Israel has ever had in the White House. But the U.S. president has more recently tempered his pro-Israel stance.