President Donald Trump said his phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday was “very nice.”
Trump, who took office on Friday, spoke with Netanyahu on Sunday afternoon. Trump was asked about the call by reporters after delivering remarks at a ceremony swearing in his top advisors at the White House.
Hours before the call, Israel approved hundreds of new settler homes in east Jerusalem. But a potentially explosive plan to annex a large West Bank Jewish settlement unilaterally was shelved until after Netanyahu and Trump meet face-to-face.
Trump has pledged strong support for Israel and vowed during his campaign to recognise Jerusalem as the country’s capital despite the city’s contested status.
Israeli right-wing politicians have welcomed his election, with hardliners who oppose a Palestinian state hoping it will allow them to move forward with their long-held goal of annexing most of the West Bank.
But the White House on Sunday appeared to play down suggestions that relocating the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was imminent.
Israel captured Arab east Jerusalem during the 1967 war and later annexed it -- in a move not recognised by the international community -- declaring all of the city its unified capital.
The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The United States is Israel’s most important ally, providing it with more than $3 billion per year in defence aid, but former president Barack Obama grew frustrated with Israeli settlement building.