Israel's Netanyahu departs for USA trip amid corruption investigation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with President Trump at the White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with President Trump at the White House

A former spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signed a state's witness deal in one of the corruption cases revolving around the Israeli leader, the Justice Ministry said Monday.

Trump's decision for the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the embassy there from Tel Aviv reversed decades of US policy, aggravated Arab allies and has complicated his administration's attempt to revive long-stalled Middle East peace talks.

"We want to know and we must know, what the USA position will be if we do enter into some wider confrontation with Iran", Michael Oren, a deputy Israeli cabinet minister and former ambassador to Washington, said on Sunday on Israel's Channel 13 TV.

Donald Trump has raised the prospect of attending the opening of the USA embassy in Jerusalem - a provocative move that could further inflame tensions in the Middle East.

Netanyahu was questioned "under caution" by police at his home on Friday, making him a suspect in three separate corruption investigations.

Netanyahu mostly spoke about the Iranian threat that has reached Israel's border.

"The Arabs have never been closer to Israel; Israel has never been closer to the Arabs", Netanyahu claimed.

Any hopes for a new peace process have dwindled since Trump's recognition of Jerusalem angered the Palestinians.

Several of Trump campaign aides are facing charges or have pled guilty to lying to FBI investigators.

"We're going to have it built very quickly and very inexpensively", Trump said to reporters before his meeting with Netanyahu.

"Other leaders talked about it", said Netanyahu.

At the outset of the meeting, Trump commented, "We have right now probably the best relationship with Israel we've ever had".

Netanyahu awaits a decision by Israel's attorney general on whether to indict him, as police have recommended in two bribery cases.

Mr Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing.

He is due to speak at the pro-Israel lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's (Aipac) annual conference on Tuesday, where he has previously been received as a hero. "The Palestinians I think are wanting to come back to the table very badly". If they don't you don't have peace ... and that's a possibility also.

USA officials have said the cases are not expected to affect Netanyahu's talks, which include meetings with members of Congress. Multiple aides and people close to Kushner have insisted the downgrade to a "secret" clearance won't affect his ability to work on Middle East issues. But in at least one big way, the uncertainty and strife at the White House intersected with Netanyahu's visit: a central United States interlocutor on Middle East peace, senior adviser Jared Kushner, has had his access to top-secret information yanked amid a crackdown on interim security clearances.

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