Trump says he 'never mentioned Israel' in conversation with Russians
Trump is on his first visit to Israel as U.S. President
U.S. President Donald Trump says he never "mentioned the word or the name Israel" during a recent conversation with top Russian diplomats.
Speaking alongside Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump was referencing revelations that he divulged classified information about an ISIS threat in a recent meeting with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador.
U.S. officials said the information originated from Israel.
Trump said, "I never mentioned the word or the name Israel in that conversation." But it was never alleged that Trump told the Russians that Israel was the source of the intelligence — just that he shared the information with the Russians.
Netanyahu added that U.S.-Israeli intelligence cooperation is "terrific."
- Muted enthusiasm for Trump in Israel on eve of visit
- Trump urges Islamic leaders to unite against extremism
Trump is on his first visit to Israel as U.S. President. He opened the visit by saying he sees growing recognition among Muslim nations that they share a "common cause" with Israel in their determination to counter the threats posed by Iran.
Trump also said in Jerusalem that Iran must immediately stop its financial and military support for "terrorists and militias," and he reiterated that it never be permitted to possess atomic arms.
"Most importantly, the United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon — never, ever — and must cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias, and it must cease immediately," Trump said in public remarks at a meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
Israel's prime minister says he sees a "real hope for change" in the Middle East now that Donald Trump is president.
Netanyahu praised Trump's tough stance against Iran. Netanyahu frequently clashed with former President Barack Obama.
Netanyahu says he appreciates the "reassertion" of American leadership. He believes the two allies can work together to stop what he called Iran's "march of aggression" and also advance peace in the region.
The Israeli leader said that "for the first time in my lifetime, I see a real hope for change."
Shortly after Trump's comments, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the country's missile program would continue.
"The Iranian nation has decided to be powerful. Our missiles are for peace and for defence ... American officials should know that whenever we need to technically test a missile, we will do so and will not wait for their permission," Rouhani said in a news conference, broadcast live on state TV.
Trump arrived in Israel from Saudi Arabia, where he basked in the lavish welcome he received from the kingdom's royal family.
The president received a warm airport welcome from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Pursuit of peace continues
Before meetings Monday with Netanyahu, the president and his wife, Melania Trump, visited the Western Wall, an important Jewish holy site, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is believed to be where Jesus was crucified and the location of his tomb.
The Trumps later arrived at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem for dinner. Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, presented them with a 150-year-old copy of the Bible.
In a brief joint statement to the media, Trump said he was "deeply moved" by his visit to the Western Wall, and that the visit reaffirms "the unbreakable bond of friendship between Isarel and the United States."
On Tuesday, Trump will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
After hosting Abbas at the White House in March, Trump boldly stated that achieving peace is "something that I think is, frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years."
Before arriving Trump cast the elusive pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians as the "ultimate deal." But he sets foot in Israel having offered few indications of how he plans to achieve what so many of his predecessors could not.
Trump has handed son-in-law Jared Kushner and longtime business lawyer Jason Greenblatt the assignment of charting the course toward a peace process. The White House-driven effort is a sharp shift from the practice of previous U.S. administrations that typically gave secretaries of state those responsibilities.
With files from Reuters