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Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu To Visit Trump For The 5th Time


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits President Trump at the White House today. It is the fifth time the two have met since Trump became president. The meeting comes at a critical time for both leaders. Yes, they will be talking about efforts to contain Iran's influence in the region and the contentious Middle East peace process. But each of them is also facing legal troubles that threaten to derail their respective political agendas. NPR's Daniel Estrin is traveling with the Israeli prime minister. And he joins us in our studios here in Washington.

Hey, Daniel. Nice to have you here.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hi. Good to be here.

MARTIN: So both Trump and Netanyahu face their own political challenges in this moment, as we said. How might the timing of this particular meeting affect the substance of it?

ESTRIN: It really is critical timing. And, actually, just a day before Netanyahu left for Washington, police grilled him for several hours about suspected corruption. It's one of three separate corruption cases that Netanyahu is facing. And, really, his political future is in question here. On the flight to Washington, he - Netanyahu - he was sitting in business class. We, reporters, were in the back. And the Israeli reporters in the group were chatting about his future; what's going to happen? Will there be early elections? Will Netanyahu go?

Netanyahu says he did nothing wrong. He is reacting to the police investigations in a way that is very - it shares a lot in common with Trump. He's questioned the motives of law enforcement. He's accused the media of a witch hunt. But looking at Netanyahu sitting - standing on the tarmac before getting on that plane, he was confident. He was radiant, almost. And on this trip, he is going to be highlighting his close, personal relationship with Trump and trying to, you know - he'll look like a statesman. He'll look like - almost like Trump's equal. And that will score him a lot of points back home.

MARTIN: So, I mean, any time these two leaders get together, there's a lot on the agenda. Can we tick through a couple of these things? They've got the embassy they got to talk about, right?

ESTRIN: Right. And this is actually the first time that Trump and Netanyahu are meeting since Trump announced that he's going to move the embassy in May. Netanyahu says he'll raise the possibility with Trump of Trump coming to Jerusalem to inaugurate that embassy in May. But at the top of the list is Iran. Last month, there was this major confrontation, the first such confrontation between Israeli and Iranian forces in Syria. Israel is very concerned about deepening Iranian involvement in Syria. So this is going to be at the top of the agenda - the Iranian nuclear deal, as well.


ESTRIN: The peace process you'd think would be high on the agenda. But the two sides put out statements today about what's going to be discussed. And the peace process is literally at the bottom of the list.

MARTIN: But doesn't the administration have, like, a big Mideast peace proposal that's in the offing?

ESTRIN: The ultimate deal for Mideast peace is right. That's what Trump has said he's working on. The administration keeps promising that it's going to come soon.

MARTIN: Although Jared Kushner was supposed to be leading this effort - the president's son-in-law who's now had some problems with his security clearance.

ESTRIN: That's right. And one big problem - the Palestinians are boycotting the administration altogether because of the Jerusalem embassy decision, so a lot of problems there.

MARTIN: All right. So Netanyahu is here for this big summit meeting with President Trump, and then he's moving north. He's heading to New York.

ESTRIN: He's headed to New York, right. He's also in Washington. He's going to address the pro-Israel group AIPAC. He's going to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, newspaper editors in New York. Today, he's also briefing us, the traveling pool of reporters, about what has happened in his White House meeting today. And this is actually a really rare opportunity...

MARTIN: What are you going to ask him?

ESTRIN: ...For journalists to ask Netanyahu questions.

MARTIN: What are you going to ask him?

ESTRIN: We're going to ask him a lot of stuff. Oh, man, I have a lot of questions.

MARTIN: He's got a lot of things to answer for, especially on those corruption cases. Daniel Estrin, our Jerusalem-based correspondent traveling with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Daniel, thanks so much.

ESTRIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.