US President Donald Trump said on Monday that shared concern about Iran was driving Israel and many Arab states closer and demanded that Tehran immediately cease military and financial backing of “terrorists and militias”.
In Jerusalem, in public remarks after talks with Israeli leaders on the first day of his two-day visit, he again focused on Iran, pledging he would never let Tehran acquire nuclear arms.
“What’s happened with Iran has brought many of the parts of the Middle East toward Israel,” Trump said at a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin.
In his comments to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump mentioned a growing Iranian influence in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, where it either backs Shiite fighters or has sent its own forces.
Cooperation across the Middle East
Trump said there were opportunities for cooperation across the Middle East: “That includes advancing prosperity, defeating the evils of terrorism and facing the threat of an Iranian regime that is threatening the region and causing so much violence and suffering.”
Trump, who is on his maiden foreign trip since taking office in January, urged Iran to cease “its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias”.
Israel shares the antipathy many Arab states have towards Iran, seeing the Islamic Republic as a threat to its existence.
“I want you to know how much we appreciate the change in American policy on Iran which you enunciated so clearly,” Netanyahu, who had an acrimonious relationship with former US President Barack Obama, told Trump at his official residence.
In stressing threats from Iran, Trump echoed a theme laid out during weekend meetings in Saudi Arabia with Muslim leaders from around the world, many wary of the Islamic Republic’s growing regional influence and financial muscle.
Israel-Palestinian peace deal
He also welcomed what he said was Netanyahu’s commitment to pursuing peace and renewed his pledge to achieve a deal.
Netanyahu, in his remarks, did not mention the word “Palestinians”, but spoke of advancing “peace in our region” with Arab partners helping to deliver it.
Trump has vowed to do whatever necessary to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, dubbing a peace accord “the ultimate deal”. But ahead of his Holy Land visit, he gave little indication of how he could revive talks that collapsed in 2014.
Trump will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Tuesday and the Palestinian leader said he hoped the meeting could be “useful and fruitful ... (and) will bring results”.
But in the Gaza Strip, dozens of Palestinians rallied against Trump and burned his picture and an effigy of him.