After years of frosty relations during President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump greeted each other warmly at the White House on Monday and called U.S.-Israeli relations the best they have ever been.
“We have the best relationship right now with Israel that we’ve ever had,” Trump said.
Trump hosted Netanyahu at the oval office, the first time the two leaders met since Trump announced that the United States will move its embassy to Jerusalem and officially recognize it as Israel’s capital.
During Obama’s term, frosty relations between the United States and Israel were reflected in the tense body language the two leaders exhibited while before the press, according to Fox News. In a 2013 photo of Obama during a phone call with Netanyahu, the president is seen with his feet on the desk, a gesture widely perceived as disrespectful in the Middle East.
“The president is seen with his legs up on the table, his face stern and his fist clenched, as though he were dictating to Netanyahu,” Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz wrote. “As an enthusiast of Muslim culture, Obama surely knows there is no greater insult in the Middle East than pointing the soles of one’s shoes at another person. Indeed, photos of other presidential phone calls depict Obama leaning on his desk, with his feet on the floor.”
Obama was accused of funding an effort against Netanyahu’s re-election bid in 2015, Fox News reported. Relations between the two nations deteriorated after Obama moved forward with the Iran nuclear deal and passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.
Netanyahu planned to invite Trump to the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, which coincides with Israel’s Independence Day.
“Israel is very special to me,” Trump told reporters. “Special country, special people, and I look forward to being there.”
“What better to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump added, noting the embassy move gives “a real opportunity for peace.”
“We’ll see how it works out. The Palestinians are wanting to come back to the table. Very badly,” Trump said. “If they don’t, you don’t have peace. And that’s a possibility also.”
Netanyahu praised Trump decision to move the embassy as a “historic proclamation” likening the president to Persian king Cyrus the Great, who freed the Jews from captivity in Babylon 2,500 years ago. Many U.S. presidents promised to do the same on the campaign trail, but never delivered on their vows.
“Mr. President, this will be remembered by our people throughout the ages,” Netanyahu said. “Others talked about it. You did it.”