Today the White House rolled out the red carpet for Benjamin Netanyahu. It announced that President Trump will meet with the Israel premier twice next week when he comes to Washington to speak at the AIPAC policy conference.
The President and the Prime Minister will discuss their countries’ shared interests and actions in the Middle East during a working meeting on March 25. The President will also host the Prime Minister for dinner on March 26.
Meantime, Netanyahu held a joint appearance with the US Secretary of State in Israel and lavished praise on Donald Trump’s support for the country, then said he was looking forward to the D.C. meetings with Trump, “and I believe we can carry this relationship [forward] even stronger.”
A reporter called out: “How do you feel that your relationship with President Trump will help your reelection sir?”
Netanyahu ignored the question, but he is certainly leading in the Trump primary ahead of the April 9 election. That primary takes place next week in Washington. His chief rival Benny Gantz will also be speaking at AIPAC, but is not likely to have an audience with the most powerful man in the world.
Trump showed his hand, says Evan Gottesman of the Israel Policy Forum, when his ally Senator Lindsey Graham and ambassador David Friedman paraded around the occupied territories with Netanyahu last week. “Friedman has to know and Graham has to know that they’re going to end up in a campaign ad,” Gottesman says.
“We can call this an unofficial endorsement of Benjamin Netanyahu by the US president,” Eli Kowaz of Israel Policy Forum adds. “And it could be an endorsement that even becomes official when Netanyahu visits Washington.”
Netanyahu campaign ads have quoted Trump’s praise of Netanyahu last month in Vietnam:
Well, I just think he’s been a great prime minister. And I don’t know about his [indictment] difficulty, but… I can say this: that he’s done a great job as prime minister. He’s tough, he’s smart, he’s strong.
They have also featured clips of Trump endorsing Netanyahu in 2013 when Trump was not president.
A strong prime minister is a strong Israel and you truly have a great prime minister… There’s nobody like him. He’s a winner. He’s highly respected, he’s highly thought of by all. And people really do have great respect for what has happened in Israel. So vote for Benjamin– terrific guy, terrific leader.
The relationship between the leaders is so strong that Kowaz says some Israeli commentators have said it’s a “mistake” for Gantz to attend the AIPAC policy conference next week.
There will be a lot going on. Netanyahu will be there and I assume he will receive a red carpet welcome from the President… And I think [Gantz] will have his work cut out for him. It’s his first big speech on the foreign policy stage… It’s a place where Netanyahu is super comfortable, and it’s a bit of foreign territory for Gantz.
Netanyahu of course speaks American-accented English. “We haven’t heard Gantz’s American accent,” says Kowaz.
Evan Gottesman agrees on the risk. “Some people have questioned the wisdom of Gantz going to the AIPAC conference at all. Whether he would be better off campaigning at home… It’s unlikely that Gantz will have any invitation to the White House whereas Netanyahu is scheduled to be meeting with Trump. There’s a lot of this trip that will come out positive for Netanyahu, and there aren’t the same guarantees for Benny Gantz.”
The latest ad from Netanyahu features Mike Huckabee praising Netanyahu’s global stature:
All of us recognize that what he has for the people of Israel is a frame of reference and a depth of relationship with world leaders across the spectrum of politics. No one has that, no one in the entire world has developed those kinds of relationships.