President Donald Trump said he may soon visit Israel to open a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem as he offered a warm welcome Monday to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — one that did not include any public mention of the potentially career-ending inquiry that followed the long-serving Israeli leader to Washington.
“I may” go for the planned May opening of the embassy, Trump said. “We’re looking at coming. If I can, I will.”
Netanyahu said of Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem: “This will be remembered by our people through the ages. Others talked about it. You did it.”
The relocated embassy Trump would inaugurate is actually a refitted office that will serve as the vanguard U.S. diplomatic headquarters until a permanent structure is built years from now.
On the warm welcome, Trump boasted Monday that he is building it for a mere $250,000, instead of what he said was a $1 billion government “order.”
He appeared to be referring only to the initial office. The permanent structure is estimated to take roughly a decade to be built and could easily cost $1 billion.
The two leaders, who have formed a personal bond closer than any Trump has with other world leaders, gave no sign that the corruption allegations, which Netanyahu denies, were coloring their meeting. Trump has a cloud over his own administration as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III investigates his aides and others as part of an inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“We have, I would say, probably the best relationships right now with Israel that we ever had,” Trump said. “I think we’re as close now as, maybe, ever before.”
Trump noted that other presidents hesitated to move the embassy from Tel Aviv and said that his decision can clear the air for an eventual peace deal.
Palestinians disagree, saying the embassy decision spoils chances for peace, by appearing to write off their claim to East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.