Kafe Knesset for Feb. 15
After weeks of preparations it is finally happening: Bibi is on his way to the White House to meet President Donald Trump. Since arriving in DC, the PM has kept a distance from the press, only distributing periodical pictures of consultations with his close advisors. Netanyahu’s team divided their time between the Blair House and the Israeli Embassy, where they spent a few hours yesterday to discuss the most sensitive issues on the table (for years, Netanyahu and his team have been quite anxious about taping in the Blair House and prefer to talk the A class confidential stuff elsewhere) and then had a meeting and short dinner with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Even after the Tillerson meeting, the PMO was cheap on details of the meeting, issuing only a brief statement that in the two hour meeting regional issues were discussed and that Netanyahu invited Tillerson to Israel in order to “establish an independent working relationship.”
Netanyahu’s arrival in DC was rattled by Mike Flynn’s resignation fallout, as well as preparations for the meeting, as Flynn was one of the main contact persons for Bibi’s chamber. A senior aide told Kafe Knesset Flynn’s resignation definitely cast a cloud over the pre-meeting deliberations “exhibiting just how liquid the situation here is these days”.
Late last night, as senior White House officials announced a potential departure from the traditional U.S. two-state stance, Netanyahu already got his first Trump gift even before the meeting began. For days his main political rival Naftali Bennet and other right wing politicians – including from his own Likud Party – have been demanding him to omit the two-state term and the idea of a Palestinian state. The White House briefing ahead of the meeting relieves Bibi from that pressure and enables him to return home with at least one significant achievement. Bennett tweeted this morning that he wishes the PM good luck: “For the first time in 24 years we can step out of the Palestinian state mud”. Israeli two-staters, however, were less enthusiastic. “It doesnt matter what Trump wants, its about the Israeli interest. Only the two-state solution will keep Israel jewish and democratic”, Meretz leader Zehava Galon said.
Netanyahu didn’t forget Valentines Day, and had a special red roses bouqet prepared for Sara, tweeting a romantic message for everyone to see, and was supposed to have an early night in bed to rest before the historic meeting. Immediately after arriving in the White House, the President and the PM will be giving a joint press conference, only then moving to the Oval Office for the traditional photo op. After a one-on-one , bilateral meeting, and joint lunch, Netanyahu will be meeting the press corp for a short briefing, before continuing to Capitol Hill for a series of back to back meetings with Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and other senators. Tomorrow morning he will be having an early breakfast with Vice President Mike Pence.