Trump says he may travel to Israel for embassy move

 

WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM, March 5 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he might travel to Israel for the opening of the U.S. embassy there as he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a united front against Iran in White House talks.

Trump's decision for the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the embassy there from Tel Aviv reversed decades of U.S. policy, aggravated Arab allies and has complicated his administration's attempt to revive long-stalled Middle East peace talks.

Trump, with Netanyahu at his side in the Oval Office, said he was considering making what would be his second visit to Jerusalem as president. The opening of the U.S. embassy is planned for May.

"We're looking at coming," Trump said. "If I can, I will."

Mired in corruption investigations threatening his political survival, Netanyahu - questioned at his home by police on Friday - stepped into a different spotlight during his five-day U.S. visit.

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U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, speaks while Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli's prime minister, smiles during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Netanyahu is trying to recalibrate ties with Israel's top ally after eight years of high-profile clashes with former President Barack Obama, in part over Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.

(Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves the White House after a meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli's prime minister, not pictured, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Netanyahu is trying to recalibrate ties with Israel's top ally after eight years of high-profile clashes with former President Barack Obama, in part over Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.

(Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump (2ndR) and first lady Melania Trump meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara (L) in the Oval Office of White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Chief strategist to US President Donald Trump arrives for a joint press conference by Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House on February 15, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (L) and his wife Ivanka Trump talk with Sara Netanyahu (front L) as she arrives for a joint press conference between U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli's prime minister, speaks during a news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Netanyahu is trying to recalibrate ties with Israel's top ally after eight years of high-profile clashes with former President Barack Obama, in part over Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.

(Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves following meetings with US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump smiles outside the West Wing of the White House as Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, not pictured, departs in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Netanyahu is trying to recalibrate ties with Israel's top ally after eight years of high-profile clashes with former President Barack Obama, in part over Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway (2nd L) listens during a joint news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the East Room of the White House February 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump hosted Prime Minister Netanyahu for talks for the first time since Trump took office on January 20.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer waits for the beginning of a joint news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the East Room of the White House February 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump hosted Prime Minister Netanyahu for talks for the first time since Trump took office on January 20.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, speaks with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Netanyahu is trying to recalibrate ties with Israel's top ally after eight years of high-profile clashes with former President Barack Obama, in part over Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, waves while leaving the West Wing of the White House after meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Netanyahu is trying to recalibrate ties with Israel's top ally after eight years of high-profile clashes with former President Barack Obama, in part over Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture Directort Lonnie Bunch(2ndR), talks with first Lady Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu, wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as they tour the Museum along with Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton, left, on February 15, 2017, in Washington, DC.

(MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. first lady Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu stand together during a visit to the African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

President Donald Trump addresses a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 15, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enter the White House as first lady Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu follow in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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Trump's push to change or scrap Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and concerns over Tehran's foothold in Syria topped the agenda of his talks with Netanyahu, U.S. and Israeli officials said.

Both leaders have long railed against the deal, citing its limited duration and the fact it does not cover Iran's ballistic missile program or its support for anti-Israel militants in the region.

"If I had to say what is our greatest challenge in the Middle East to both our countries, to our Arab neighbors, it’s encapsulated in one word: Iran," Netanyahu said. "Iran must be stopped. That is our common challenge."

Trump has threatened to pull out of the agreement unless European allies help "fix" it with a follow-up accord. An Israeli official said Netanyahu and Trump were likely to talk about how to overcome European resistance on the matter.

Israel has accused Tehran of seeking a permanent military presence in Syria, where Iranian-backed forces support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war.

Netanyahu has also cautioned that Israel could act against Iran itself after an Iranian drone flew into Israel last month and an Israeli warplane was shot down while bombing air defenses in Syria. He has accused Iran of planning to build precision-guided missile factories in Lebanon, amid tensions along that border.

Trump suggested that the Palestinians are eager to return to negotiations and said if they do not, "you don't have peace."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, angered by Trump's Jerusalem move, has refused to engage with the United States on Middle East peace, prompting Trump to delay the rollout of peace proposals.

Participating in the talks was Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has been on the defensive amid investigations into alleged meddling by Russia in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Some analysts believe Kushner's ability to run the Middle East initiative has been handicapped by his loss of access to certain valued U.S. intelligence because of a White House clampdown on access to such secrets for those without full security clearance.

RELATED: A look back at Jared Kushner's visit to the Middle East

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Jared Kushner (L), U.S President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser shakes hand with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) prior to their meeting at the prime minister's office in East Jerusalem, Israel on August 24, 2017.

(Photo by Israeli Prime Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Jared Kushner (3rd L), U.S President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser, along with his delegation, pose with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (4th R) prior to their meeting at the prime minister's office in East Jerusalem, Israel on August 24, 2017.

(Photo by Israeli Prime Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

In this handout image provided by the Palestinian Press Office (PPO), Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Jared Kushner (L), White House Advisor and son-in-law of U.S. President Donald Trump, on August 24, 2017 in Ramallah, West Bank.

(Photo by Osama Falah/PPO via Getty Images)

In this handout image provided by the Palestinian Press Office (PPO), Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Jared Kushner (L), White House Advisor and son-in-law of U.S. President Donald Trump, on August 24, 2017 in Ramallah, West Bank.

(Photo by Osama Falah/PPO via Getty Images)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) and US presidential adviser Jared Kushner (L) pose for a picture at the Egyptian Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt on August 23, 2017.

(Photo by Egyptian Presidency Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner (3rd L) meets with President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas (3rd R) at Presidential Residence due to Kushner's official visit in Ramallah, West Bank on August 24, 2017.

(Photo by Palestinian Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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'ROUTINE CHECK-IN'

No major announcements or breakthroughs were expected from Trump's talks with Netanyahu, whose relationship with the president has been among the closest of any other world leader.

"This is a routine check-in meeting," one U.S. official said of Netanyahu's second visit to the Trump White House.

For Netanyahu, however, the Oval Office meeting and address to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC on Tuesday offer a respite from his legal troubles.

Netanyahu awaits a decision by Israel's attorney general on whether to indict him, as police have recommended in two bribery cases. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

U.S. officials have said the cases are not expected to affect Netanyahu's talks, which include meetings with members of Congress. (Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Jeffrey Heller; additional reporting by Ayesha Rascoe, Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by William Maclean and Grant McCool)

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