DEBATE PREP Trump, Clinton discuss Middle East with Netanyahu

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday as the presidential candidates brush up on foreign policy hours before their debate.

Clinton’s meeting with Netanyahu was brief. The two met for less than an hour in Manhattan, according to Clinton campaign officials. Her meeting came after Trump sat down with the prime minister at his residence in Trump Tower at length, Trump campaign officials said.

Reporters were barred from covering either meeting.

Clintons’ campaign said in a statement that the two had an “in-depth conversation.” She stressed that “a strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States” and “reaffirmed unwavering commitment” to the relationship.

According to her campaign, Clinton stressed her support for the 10-year, $38 billion military aid package signed between the two countries earlier the month and opposition to efforts to boycott Israel. They also discussed Iran, the conflict in Syria and other regional challenges, including her support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict negotiated by the two parties — not an outside organization like the U.N. Security Council.

Trump and Netanyahu discussed such key issues as the Iran nuclear deal, Middle East stability and the problems that the Islamic State terror group has created in the region, according to Trump campaign officials.

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Trump and Netanyahu are long-time acquaintances. But in December 2015, Trump postponed a trip to Israel to meet with Netanyahu after the prime minister’s office criticized his proposal to temporarily ban Muslim immigrants — in the aftermath of several terror attacks inspired or executed by radical Islamic terrorists.

The Trump campaign said Sunday that the nominee and the prime minister “have known each other for many years and had the opportunity to discuss many topics important to both countries,” citing ISIS, the Iran deal and Trump suggesting, if elected, continuing U.S. military aid to Israel.

Trump and other leading Republicans have suggested that Obama and his administration have failed to maintain strong ties with Israel, which has provided Western nations with support and stability amid decades of Middle East turmoil. The United States also provides billons annually to Israel in military aid.

Most recently, Trump and fellow Republicans have agreed with Netanyahu that the administration-brokered Iran nuclear deal hurts Israel, Tehran’s enemy, because it lifts economic sanctions without enough safeguards to ensure Iran has indeed curbed efforts to build a nuclear weapon.

“Mr. Trump recognized that Israel and its citizens have suffered far too long on the front lines of Islamic terrorism,” the campaign also said after the meeting. “He agreed with Prime Minister Netanyahu that the Israeli people want a just and lasting peace with their neighbors, but that peace will only come when the Palestinians renounce hatred and violence and accept Israel as a Jewish State.”

They also said Trump acknowledged that Jerusalem has been “the eternal capital of the Jewish People for more than 3,000 years” and that the U.S., with Trump as president, “will finally accept the long-standing congressional mandate to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu’s meeting with each of the candidates was designed to put Israel on good footing with the next U.S. president. Both candidates likely will seek Netanyahu’s support for their respective White House bids, considering Israel is often called the United States’ most important ally.

The Israeli leader has sought to project neutrality this time after perceptions arose that he favored Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama in 2012.

But it also served to showcase the candidates’ expertise in foreign policy in the shadow of their first debate Monday, six weeks before Election Day. Clinton, a former senator and secretary of state, often says that Trump does not know enough about the world and lacks the temperament to be president. Trump has argued that he has extensive experience with foreign policy through his career as a business executive and blames Clinton for many of the nation’s stumbles in foreign policy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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