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Israel's looming elections will not affect relations with US, Netanyahu says

Israeli premier met White House adviser Jared Kushner, just weeks before 'deal of the century' economic summit
Netanyahu met with senior Trump administration officials in Jerusalem on Thursday (Kobi Gideon/Israeli GPO)

Fresh off his failure to secure a ruling majority government, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with two senior aides to US President Donald Trump in Jerusalem.

Jared Kushner, the US president's son-in-law and senior Middle East policy adviser, and Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, visited Netanyahu on Thursday.

They were joined by Brian Hook, the US special envoy for Iran, and Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, according to a photo shared by the Israeli government press office.

After the meeting, Netanyahu said his domestic issues will not interrupt cooperation with his American allies.

"I'm tremendously encouraged by how the United States, under President Trump, is working to bring allies together in this region against common challenges, but also to seize common opportunities," Netanyahu said.

'I'm tremendously encouraged by how the United States, under President Trump, is working to bring allies together in this region'

- Benjamin Netanyahu

Kushner is on a tour of the Middle East, less than a month before a planned summit in Bahrain to discuss the economic portion of Washington's so-called "deal of the century" to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kushner's visit to Jerusalem also comes at a time when the Israeli premier is on shaky ground at home, as his inability to build a coalition in parliament has forced the country to hold fresh elections in September.

"We had a little event last night," said Netanyahu, referring to the Knesset vote to dissolve, which prompted the upcoming parliamentary polls, the second in only a few months.

"That's not going to stop us. We're going to continue working together."

But Kushner and Greenblatt are also facing mounting failures, as they have been unable to build a regional consensus ahead of their economic summit in Bahrain on 25-26 June.

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While the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia said they plan to attend the meeting, Palestinians have flatly rejected it, accusing Washington of being a dishonest broker.

Ahead of his visit to neighbouring Jordan earlier this week, Kushner was met by hundreds of protesters who staged a sit-in near the US embassy in Amman to denounce the "deal of the century".

The Trump administration so far has provided very few details publicly about its proposal, but Kushner has repeatedly promised that it will bring economic prosperity to Palestinians.

Still, Palestinians say there can be no prosperity without control over their political future, which is impossible without an end to Israel's continued occupation and widespread human rights abuses.

Trump has also been described as one of the most staunchly pro-Israel presidents in US history, as he has pursued a string of policy shifts that cemented Washington's unbridled support not only for the Israeli government, but for Netanyahu in particular.

Ahead of Netanyahu's looming deadline to form a government coalition this week, Trump reiterated his unequivocal support for the Israeli premier.

"Hoping things will work out with Israel's coalition formation and Bibi [Netanyahu] and I can continue to make the alliance between America and Israel stronger than ever. A lot more to do!" he tweeted on 27 May.

'The security of Israel is something that's critical to the relations between America and Israel'

- Jared Kushner

https://twitter.com/realDonldTrump/status/1133031322912473093?s=2Since taking office in 2017, Trump has moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, cut financial aid to Palestinian refugees, shuttered the Palestine Liberation Organisation's office in Washington, and recognised Israel's hold on the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

On Thursday, Kushner praised that Golan Heights decision, calling it "a very important announcement".

Kushner also highlighted the unwavering relationship between Israel and the US.

"The security of Israel is something that's critical to the relations between America and Israel," Kushner said, adding that ties between the two countries have "never been stronger".

"We're very excited about all the potential that lies ahead for Israel, for the relationship, and for the future," he said.