WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump gave a boost Saturday to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu days before he faces his fiercest political test in more than a decade.
Trump publicly expressed support in a tweet for moving forward with discussions on a U.S.-Israel mutual defense treaty, embracing a Netanyahu priority as the Israeli leader hopes that his ties with the American leader will bring him another term. Netanyahu is perhaps Trump’s closest ally on the world stage, and the U.S. president has expressed optimism that he will survive Tuesday’s vote.
Trump said a formal defense pact would “further anchor the tremendous alliance between our two countries” and he looks forward to continuing the discussions after the election when they meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly later this month.
In a Twitter post, Netanyahu thanked his “dear friend” Trump. He added, “The Jewish State has never had a greater friend in the White House. I look forward to our meeting at the UN to advance a historic Defense Treaty between the United States and Israel.”
The vote this week is the second of 2019, after Netanyahu was unable to form a governing coalition following elections in April. The Israeli leader has been hampered by a hovering cloud of corruption charges that threaten not only to oust him from office but also to put him on trial.
Netanyahu, speaking Saturday on Israeli television, described such a defense pact as “historic” and “great,” but it was not clear what it would add to defense ties that are already very close. The U.S. gives Israel more than $3 billion a year in military aid and considers Israel a “major non-NATO ally.”
The idea of a formal treaty has been discussed before and been determined to be unnecessary.
Outside of NATO and the Rio Treaty with Latin American countries, the United States has separate mutual defense treaties with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Australia and New Zealand.