Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived February 14th for his first meeting with President Donald Trump, a meeting intended to solidify the existing relationship between the two countries in the new Trump administration.

In an interview with The New Indian TV Network, IPS Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis argued that while Trump’s campaign rhetoric suggested a warmer embrace of hardline pro-Israel policies than former president Barack Obama took, the details of Trump’s policy on the region remain unclear.  

“There’s a great deal of uncertainty about what Trump’s foreign policy on Israel-Palestine, like his foreign policy on other issues, is actually going to look like,” Bennis said. But his campaign rhetoric regarding U.S.-Israeli ties has certainly put him farther to the right in the United States, “closer to the extreme right inside Israel,” Bennis explained.

This hardline rhetoric is reflected in Trump’s pick for the new U.S. ambassador to Israel. David Friedman, Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer and a financial supporter of Israeli settlements, has called for the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an idea that has been internationally condemned.

However, Trump looks to have softened his approach on this issue. While averring that he “could live with one state,” disavowing decades of stated U.S. policy in favor of a two-state solution, he’s also offered a muted condemnation of new Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, saying they “may not be helpful” to achieving peace in the region.

Bennis said that “the possibility of an Ambassador Friedman deciding to move the embassy is greater than we’ve ever seen before.” Yet given the administration’s shifting rhetoric on the issue, she concluded that there’s still no guarantee it will actually happen.

Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis directs the New Internationalism project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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