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Trump To Host Israel’s Netanyahu For Middle East Talks

U.S. President Donald Trump will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on February 15, the first meeting between the two leaders since Trump's inauguration.

The meeting will cover issues including Iran, the war in Syria, and countering Islamic State and other terrorist groups, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on February 14.

Trump and Netanyahu are also expected to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Israel's settlement-building on occupied land and the two-state solution, which envisages Israel and a Palestinian state living peacefully side-by-side.

For Netanyahu, the gathering is an opportunity to reset ties after a frequently strained relationship with former President Barack Obama.

During the election campaign, Trump was starkly pro-Israel in his rhetoric, promising to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, backing David Friedman, a staunch supporter of settlements, as his Israeli envoy, and saying that he would not put pressure on Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians.

But since taking office, Trump appears to have shelved the embassy move, at least temporarily, after warnings about the potential for regional unrest, including from Jordan's King Abdullah.

Furthermore, the White House has recently said building new settlements or expanding existing ones beyond their current borders would not be helpful to peace.

Friedman, who has yet to be confirmed as U.S. ambassador to Israel, will not be participating in the talks on February 15.

Netanyahu committed to the two-state solution -- which has been the bedrock of U.S. diplomacy for the past two decades -- in a speech in 2009 and has broadly reiterated the aim since.

But more recently, Netanyahu has spoken of a "state minus," suggesting he could offer the Palestinians deep-seated autonomy and the trappings of statehood without full sovereignty.

The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, with the capital in East Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war.

Trump's position on the two-state solution remains unclear.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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