President Trump is expected to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House next month, as the long-serving Israeli leader faces mounting legal and political problems at home.
Netanyahu will meet with the U.S. president March 5, U.S. and Israeli government officials said. The meeting coincides with Netanyahu’s planned address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington. Word of the invitation comes the same week that Israeli police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted in two corruption cases on suspicion of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust.
The recommendation ramps up pressure on Netanyahu, who has served more than a decade in office and presides over an unruly political coalition. The announcement amplified calls by opponents for Netanyahu to resign and could limit his political leverage for the Mideast peace deal Trump says he wants. At the same time, Netanyahu is hemmed in by warnings of potential war on the country’s northern border and impending economic collapse in the Gaza Strip.
After more than a year of investigations, Israeli police said they believe there is sufficient evidence against the prime minister to indict him on suspicion of giving political favors for gifts worth around $280,000 in total and of cutting a deal with a newspaper publisher for favorable coverage. Israel’s attorney general must now decide whether to proceed with charges, a process that could take months.
Netanyahu denies the allegations. In a televised address to the nation Tuesday, Netanyahu said he would “continue to lead Israel with responsibility and dedication and loyalty.”
Trump last saw the Israeli leader in January, when both attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Trump praised Netanyahu heartily and told reporters that relations between the two countries had never been better.
Netanyahu thanked Trump profusely for the announcement, in December, that the United States considers Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. Palestinians have boycotted meetings with the United States ever since, and they maintain that Trump cannot be an honest broker for any peace agreement. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to appeal to the United Nations for help toward statehood during remarks Monday at the U.N. Security Council.