Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu ahead of their first presidential debate, a senior Israeli official and both campaigns said today.
The Israeli prime minister’s office did not provide further details, including whether the meetings were at Netanyahu’s invitation. The separate meetings Sunday in New York will follow Netanyahu’s annual visit to the United Nations General Assembly. The prime minister met with President Barack Obama earlier in the week on the sidelines of the gathering of leaders.
The Trump and Clinton meetings come as both White House hopefuls seek to convince voters that they are best prepared to represent the United States on the global stage. Trump has no official experience in diplomacy, but he has boasted that he will use the tactics he honed in business to be a tough negotiator with foreign powers and do away with deals unfavorable to the United States. Clinton has underscored her deep familiarity with foreign policy and national security from her years as secretary of state and in the Senate.
Trump’s campaign confirmed his plans to meet with Netanyahu but did not immediately comment on what the two intend to discuss. Clinton’s campaign later also confirmed her plans. Neither campaign provided details about the location or timing.
Clinton and Trump face off in their first debate Monday at Hofstra University, outside New York City.
Israel is a principal U.S. ally and often a main topic in U.S. presidential politics. It has not been much of a topic this year, although both candidates have expressed strong support for Israel, and Clinton applauded a huge 10-year military support package approved by Congress earlier this month.
The Israel-related issue that most divides the candidates is the international nuclear diplomacy with Iran that resulted in a deal to curb but not close down Iran’s nuclear development program. Netanyahu bitterly opposes the deal championed by Obama, saying it leaves Israel in danger. Clinton supports the deal; Trump opposes it and has said he would scrap it if he becomes president. Clinton says she would enforce it aggressively.
Netanyahu has stayed largely out of the 2016 race after drawing criticism for appearing to favor Obama’s Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, in 2012. Obama and Netanyahu have had a tense relationship. But both leaders say the strength of the alliance is more important.
Clinton knows the longtime Israeli politician well and has had her own rough patches with him. She has touted her relationship with him as one example of how she is more experienced and ready to be commander in chief than her rival.
Clinton also met with the leaders of Japan, Ukraine and Egypt last week on the sidelines of the U.N. gathering. Trump also met the Egyptian leader and was invited to meet with Ukraine’s leader, that country said.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Anne Gearan, Sean Sullivan