Trump invites Netanyahu to Washington for visit: White House

President Donald Trump invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Washington in early February during a phone call in which they discussed the importance of strengthening the U.S.-Israeli relationship, the White House said on Sunday.

In his first call with Netanyahu since taking office on Friday, Trump stressed his "unprecedented commitment to Israel's security."

"The president and the prime minister agreed to continue to closely consult on a range of regional issues, including addressing the threats posed by Iran," the White House said in a statement.

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Inaugural balls to honor President Donald Trump
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Inaugural balls to honor President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend the Liberty Ball in honor of his inauguration in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence dance with members of the armed services at the A Salute to Our Armed Services Ball on January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Trump will attend a series of balls to cap his Inauguration day.

(Photo by Kevin Dietsch - Pool/Getty Images)

The Rockettes perform at the Freedom Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump was sworn today as the 45th U.S. President.

(Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump applauds while flanked by his wife Melania (L) and his son Donald Jr. (R) at his "Liberty" Inaugural Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

U.S. President Donald Trump, his wife Melania, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen dance with army services members at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

U.S. first lady Melania Trump dances with army services member at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, dance along with U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump (not pictured), at the president's "Liberty" Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Singer Erin Boheme performs at the "Liberty" Inaugural Ball being held for U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, along with the older Trump children and their spouses, attend the Liberty Ball in honor of his inauguration in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Trump supporters celebrate as they attend the Inauguration Freedom Ball being held for U.S. President Donald J. Trump and first lady Melania Trump in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attend the Liberty Inaugural Ball on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Liberty Ball is the first of three inaugural balls that President Donald Trump will be attending.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Gospel Singer Travis Greene (L) and R&B singer Chrisette Michele (R) perform at the "Liberty" Inaugural Ball being held for U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (C) helps his wife Karen Pence down the steps of the front porch of the vice presidential residence at the U.S Naval Observatory before heading to the inaugural balls with their children January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The ball is part of the celebrations following the inauguration of Pence and U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump with his wife Melania and Vice President Mike Pence with his wife Karen cut a cake at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

Preparations are made for U.S. President Donald J. Trump and first lady Melania Trump at the Inauguration Freedom Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

US President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump dance at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

The Piano Guys perform at the Freedom Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump was sworn today as the 45th U.S. President.

(Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump speaks as first lady Melania Trump looks on during the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

A Military Color Guard presents on stage prior prior to the start of the Freedom Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump was sworn today as the 45th U.S. President.

(Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Pelican212 performs at the Freedom Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump was sworn today as the 45th U.S. President.

(Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump dance with their wives at the Liberty Inaugural Ball on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Liberty Ball is the first of three inaugural balls that President Donald Trump will be attending.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump dances with his wife Melania at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

Ivanka Trump (R) dances with her husband Jared Kushner and Eric Trump dances with his wife Lara Yunaska during A Salute To Our Armed Services Inaugural Ball at the National Building Museum on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States today.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A guest attends the Freedom Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump was sworn today as the 45th U.S. President.

(Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump, his wife Melania, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen dance with army services members at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

US President Donald Trump (C) gestures as the first lady Melania Trump (center L), Vice Presidant Mike Pence (L), his wife Karen (2L) and family look on at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

A guest takes a picture at the "Liberty" inaugural ball for U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump thank guests during the Freedom Ball at the Washington Convention Center January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The ball is part of the celebrations following Trump's inauguration.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, dance along with U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump (not pictured), at the president's "Liberty" Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Workers carry the presidential seal at the site of the Commander in Chief inaugural ball for President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. January 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (C), his wife Karen Pence, their daughters Audrey (2nd L) and Charlotte (2nd R) and their son Michael and his wife Sarah pose for photographs on the front porch of the vice presidential residence at the U.S Naval Observatory before heading to the inaugural balls January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The ball is part of the celebrations following the inauguration of Pence and U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Supporters listen to U.S. President Donald Trump at the Freedom Ball in honor of his inauguration in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

The Radio City Music Hall "Rockettes" perform at the "Liberty" Inaugural Ball held for U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

US President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump dance at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

(MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)

Guests wait for US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump dance at the Armed Forces ball at the National Building Museum on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump dance at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

(MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump, his wife Melania, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen dance at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

US President Donald Trump (2R) and the first lady Melania Trump (R) dance with Vice Presidant Mike Pence and his wife Karen at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

A detailed view of the stage during A Salute To Our Armed Services Inaugural Ball at the National Building Museum on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States today.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Ivanka Trump blows a kiss as she departs with her husband Jared Kushner from the Inauguration Freedom Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

United States Army Staff Sergeant Jose A. Medina dances with U.S. first lady Melania Trump (C) during the "Salute to Our Armed Services Ball" on Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C, U.S. January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

Vanessa Trump and her husband Donald Trump, Jr. and Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner watch U.S. President Donald Trump cut a cake during the inaugural Armed Services Ball at the National Building Museum January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The ball is part of the celebrations following the inauguration of Trump.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Trump also said peace between Israel and the Palestinians could only be negotiated between the two parties, but that the United States would work with Israel to achieve that goal.

Relations between Israel and the Obama administration ended on a contentious note, when the United States declined to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a halt to Israeli settlement-building.

The readout from the White House did not include any mention of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, an action that would likely spark anger in the Arab world.

Earlier on Sunday, the White House said it was only in the early stages of talks to fulfill Trump's campaign pledge to relocate the embassy.

"We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement. Aides said no announcement of an embassy move was imminent.

Washington's embassy is in Tel Aviv, as are most foreign diplomatic posts. Israel calls Jerusalem its eternal capital, but Palestinians also lay claim to the city as part of an eventual Palestinian state. Both sides cite biblical, historical and political claims.

Any decision to break with the status quo is likely to prompt protests from U.S. allies in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. Washington relies on those countries for help in fighting the Islamic State militant group, which the new U.S. president has said is a priority.

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Donald Trump's first day as president
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Donald Trump's first day as president

White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (2nd R) gives U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (R) the document to confirming James Mattis his Secretary of Defense, his first signing in the Oval Office in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

President Donald Trump turns to House Speaker Paul Ryan as he is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family as he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, in the President's Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/J. Scott Applewhite/Pool)

US President Donald Trump formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, at the Capitol in Washington, January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/J. Scott Applewhite/Pool)

US President Donald Trump signs an executive order as Vice President Mike Pence looks on at the White House in Washington, DC on January 20, 2017.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family as he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, in the President's Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/J. Scott Applewhite/Pool)

US President Donald Trump signs an executive order as Vice President Mike Pence and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus look on at the White House in Washington, DC on January 20, 2017.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, as he is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family while he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, at the Capitol in Washington, January 20, 2017. From left are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump.

(REUTERS/J. Scott Applewhite/Pool)

US President Donald Trump is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family, rear, wife Melania Trump, son Barron Trump, as he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, at the Capitol in Washington, January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/J. Scott Applewhite/Pool)

President Donald Trump prepares to sign a confirmation for Defense Secretary James Mattis as his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (L) points to the order while Vice President Mike Pence watches January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Kevin Dietsch - Pool/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family as he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, in the President's Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/J. Scott Applewhite/Pool)

President Donald Trump signs his first executive order as president, ordering federal agencies to ease the burden of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(Photo by Kevin Dietsch - Pool/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump is joined by the Congressional leadership and his family as he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law, in the President's Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/J. Scott Applewhite/Pool)

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The U.S. Congress passed a law in 1995 describing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and saying it should not be divided, but successive Republican and Democratic presidents have used their foreign policy powers to maintain the embassy in Tel Aviv and to back negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the status of Jerusalem.

In early December, then-President Barack Obama renewed the presidential waiver on an embassy move until the beginning of June. It is unclear whether Trump would be able to legally override it and go ahead with relocation of the embassy.

U.S. diplomats say that, despite the U.S. legislation, Washington's foreign policy is in practice broadly aligned with that of the United Nations and other major powers, which do not view Jerusalem as Israel's capital and do not recognize Israel's annexation of Arab East Jerusalem after its capture in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel approved building permits on Sunday for hundreds of homes in three East Jerusalem settlements in expectation that Trump will row back on the previous administration's criticism of such projects.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe, Warren Strobel and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Howard Goller and Paul Simao)


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