Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump has pledged to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital if he is elected.
Trump met privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his residence in Trump Tower on Sunday, a day before the New York billionaire faces off against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in their first presidential debate. Clinton was also expected to meet Netanyahu in New York on the eve of the debate.
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“Trump acknowledged that Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years, and that the US, under a Trump administration, will finally accept the long-standing congressional mandate to recognise Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the state of Israel,” his campaign said in a statement.
Israel captured the Arab eastern half of Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed it in 1980, declaring all of Jerusalem Israel’s unified capital.
The United States, and most other United Nations member countries, do not recognise the annexation and consider Jerusalem’s final status to be a key issue to be resolved in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
The US Congress passed a law in October 1995 calling for an undivided Jerusalem to be recognised as Israel’s capital and to authorise funding for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
But no US president, Democrat or Republican, has implemented the law, regarding it as an infringement on the executive branch’s authority over foreign policy.
No mention by Netanyahu
Netanyahu’s office issued a statement about the hour-long meeting but made no mention of Trump’s pledge on Jerusalem.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed with Mr Trump issues relating to Israel’s security and its efforts to achieve stability and peace in the Middle East,” it said.
The Trump statement said he promised Netanyahu that Washington would provide Israel with “extraordinary strategic, technological and military cooperation” if he is elected.
Netanyahu’s meetings with Trump and Clinton come after the US recently completed a 10-year, $38bn military aid package for Israel.
Clinton said in a statement that it would help “solidify and chart a course for the US-Israeli defence relationship in the 21st century as we face a range of common challenges”.