Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty

Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE said he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE on Saturday to discuss a possible defense treaty between the U.S. and Israel.

Trump tweeted that he held a call with Netanyahu to discuss the potential treaty, arguing it "would further anchor the tremendous alliance between our two countries."

"I look forward to continuing those discussions after the Israeli Elections when we meet at the United Nations later this month!" he added.

The U.S. and Israel already cooperate closely on defense, with Washington sending Jerusalem nearly $4 billion in military aid each year. 

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Trump and Netanyahu have forged a close personal bond since the president took office, with the White House openly supporting Netanyahu’s political ambitions and moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that was lauded by the Israeli government but drew criticism from Palestinians and leaders from a number of other countries.

Netanyahu responded to Trump's tweet Saturday, thanking his "dear friend" and saying Israel "has never had a greater friend in the White House."

The call comes days before Israel's elections, in which Netanyahu is neck and neck with two centrist rivals in one of the largest threats to his tenure yet.

The prime minister has campaigned heavily on national security issues in the final days of the race, promoting ideas such as annexing parts of the West Bank as he seeks to shore up support while suggesting candidates to his left would leave Israel at risk. 

Benny Gantz, a former Israel Defense Forces chief and one of the centrists, said a mutual defense pact with the U.S. would be a “serious mistake.”

“Such an agreement would be a serious mistake for the State of Israel’s security,” Gantz said at a conference in Israel, “because a mutual defense treaty requires us to coordinate our security with the United States.” 

“This is not what we want,” added Gantz. “We haven’t asked anyone to be killed for our sakes, we haven’t asked anyone to fight for us, and we haven’t asked anyone for the right to defend the State of Israel.” 

Netanyahu was elected to a fifth term in April, but new elections were called earlier this year after he failed to form a ruling coalition.

Updated: 12:53 p.m.