Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has angrily demanded that all his Cabinet ministers attend Monday’s reception ceremony for US President Donald Trump, after many said they would not show up.
The original plan for Trump’s arrival was for a long reception, including handshakes with all Cabinet ministers, according to Haaretz, but when that was changed many decided not to attend.
That plan was then changed again, and all ministers were again invited on Saturday evening, the Israeli newspaper reported.
However, they would have to turn up two-and-a-half hours before Trump’s midday arrival from Saudi Arabia, and would have to undergo a security check, and the short reception would not include speeches or handshakes.
The Foreign Ministry also informed them that attendance was not mandatory.
But when Netanyahu discovered that many were planning not to attend, during Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, he “was furious,” a senior official who attended the meeting said.
Muted Israeli response to US-Saudi arms deal
Israel gave a muted response on Sunday to a major arms deal between the United States and Saudi Arabia announced a day earlier.
“This is a matter that really should trouble us,” said Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz prior to the weekly cabinet meeting, although Netanyahu made no mention of the deal in his customary public remarks.
Netanyahu has voiced his wish to improve ties with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states as part of an initiative that would draw the Palestinians into an eventual peace deal and as a broad front against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Israel has always been wary of maintaining its military edge, and Steinitz said he hoped to hear details of the deal. Trump and his entourage touch down in Israel on Monday.
“We have also to make sure that those hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia will not, by any means, erode Israel’s qualitative edge, because Saudi Arabia is still a hostile country without any diplomatic relations and nobody knows what the future will be,” he said.
In the 1980s, Israel expressed its concern at a US sale to Saudi Arabia of then-advanced F-15 fighter jets that were stationed at a Red Sea airfield, but the desert kingdom has never threatened to use them against Israel.
Hezbollah responds to Trump
A Hezbollah leader blacklisted this week by the United States and Saudi Arabia on Sunday branded Trump’s administration “crazy”.
Just before Trump flew to Saudi Arabia on Friday, Washington and Riyadh issued their first “joint terrorist designation” blacklisting Hashem Safieddine, head of Hezbollah’s executive council.
The Iran-backed movement is already branded a “foreign terrorist organisation” by Washington.
“This crazy American administration [operating] under Trump will not be able to crush the Resistance,” Safieddine said using an alternative name for Hezbollah, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency.
The designation of Safieddine was announced on Friday by the US State Department and confirmed by Saudi Arabia.
Analysts say Safieddine is spoken of as a potential candidate to succeed Hezbollah’s overall chief, Hassan Nasrallah, who is a distant cousin.