Netanyahu’s visit to Washington

This current visit of PM Netanyahu to Washington comes as a welcome break from his domestic difficulties.  First of all are the many legal investigations (5 at the latest counting) that have been mounted against him by the Israel police and some of which are in the hands of the Attorney General.  He must fear the worst since several (perhaps 3) of his former aides and confidants have agreed to turn State’s evidence against him.

Second, his coalition partners on the right and the left have not been able to come to a compromise on the issue of military service for the ultra-orthodox (haredim).  The Israel Beitanu party wants them to serve as everyone else in the military, with few exemptions for religious conviction.  The religious parties Shas and United Torah Judaism want all haredim to be exempt.  At present there are more haredim (including girls) joining the IDF and there are special battalions for them, but this is not acceptable to most of the religious political parties.  This schism indicates that the coalition will collapse and there  will be a need for new elections in the near future.

But, while this is true, and while Pres. Ttrump is beset by his own legal problems, nevertheless there are two important issues for the two leaders to discuss.  First is the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.  The first move is due to start in May and then be continued in stages.  The Jewish billionaire Sheldon Arison has offered to fund the embassy project, but so far his offer has not been accepted.

The second issue is, of course, Iran and the former nuclear deal approved by Pres. Obama and a number of European countries.  While the Europeans want to maintain the deal, both Israel and now the US feel that it is an inadequate deal for two main reasons, a) it allows Iran to legitimately develop nuclear weapons after the ten years when the deal concludes, and b) it says nothing about Iran’s development of missiles, conventional weapons and the spread of terrorism that Iran is supporting throughout the Middle East.  This has now become a direct threat to Israel since Iran is strongly entrenched in Syria and is trying to develop a large military staging area on the Golan Heights.  Israel cannot accept this.

Hopefully the two leaders will not be too distracted by their own political problems to prevent them from dealing with these two important issues.

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