US President Barack Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he wants to keep alive the possibility of a stable Israel “at peace with its neighbors and a Palestinian homeland.”
The two leaders spoke to the press moments before what is expected to be their last face-to-face meeting before Obama leaves office on January 20th.
In his opening remarks, Obama also extended well wishes to former President Shimon Peres, who remains in the hospital after suffering a stroke last week. He said he wants to hear from Netanyahu about the situation in Judea and Samaria and the uptick in violence in Jerusalem.
Obama added that he is concerned by Jewish communities activity, and hopes the US can continue to be a partner to Israel in finding a way to achieve peace. “Our hope is that we can continue to be an effective partner with Israel in finding a path to peace,” Obama said as they met on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly.
During the encounter, Netanyahu thanked the President for the recently signed military aid package that will give Israel $38 billion for defense over a decade beginning in 2019 and said it will ensure that Israel can defend itself against any threats.
“Israel has no bigger friend than America and America has no bigger friend than Israel,” Netanyahu reiterated.
“It is a very difficult and dangerous time in the Middle East, and we want to make sure that Israel has the full capabilities it needs in order to keep the Israeli people safe,” he said.
He added that he will never give up on the goal of peace. “The greatest challenge is of course the unremitting fanaticism,” Netanyahu said. “The greatest opportunity is to advance … peace. That’s a goal that I and the people of Israel will never give up on.”
Netanyahu told Obama that he “will always be a welcome guest in Israel” with Obama expressing interest in a visit, along with his family once his presidency ends. He called Israel a beautiful country.
US officials have maintained for months that Obama has not yet made up his mind whether or not he will deliver a speech before he leaves office on what he believes should be the parameters of a future peace deal, or whether the US would support or veto a new UN Security Council resolution on the issue.
It was the 17th one between the Prime Minister and President Obama since they both came to power in 2009.
On Wednesday evening, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. On Thursday, after he gives his annual speech in front of the General assembly at the United Nations, the Prime Minister will also meet with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as well as with several African leaders.