Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday night that he hopes US President Barack Obama will not push forward a diplomatic initiative not coordinated with Israel in the final months of his presidency.
Netanyahu’s comments came during an interview with Channel 2, one of a number of interviews he conducted with Israeli media outlets over the weekend, and the first time he has held such far-reaching interviews since his reelection last year.
Although articulating his hope that Obama would not initiate such a move, he said that the issue did not come up in his meeting with the president in New York on Wednesday.
Netanyahu noted that he addressed the issue in his speech to the UN on Thursday, when he quoted Obama from a speech the president gave to the UN in 2011, saying that peace is not made through UN resolutions.
“That is right,” Netanyahu said in the interview. “It is done through negotiations, certainly difficult – but vital – ones between the two sides.”
He also recalled that the only time that Obama used the US veto in the Security Council was against an anti-Israel resolution dealing with the settlements in 2011.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced during his speech to the UN on Thursday an intention to bring another such resolution to the Security Council.
“I can only hope that the US’s consistent policy will continue to the end of his [Obama’s] tenure [on January 20],” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu reiterated that he is not interested in a binational state.
“I want an agreement whereby the Palestinians will recognize our state, just as we will recognize theirs. Not a state that they will flood with refugees, but rather the national home of the Jewish people. Their refusal to recognize [Israel] as the national home of the Jewish people, in any borders, remains the heart of the conflict.”
Netanyahu, scheduled to fly back to Israel on Sunday evening, met Friday with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“We had, I thought, an excellent meeting with President Obama,” Netanyahu said at the outset of that meeting.
“I look forward to continuing our conversation, which I have to divulge we [the prime minister and the secretary of state] do every other day by phone, sometimes every day.”
Kerry concurred with Netanyahu’s characterization of the meeting with Obama, and added that the recently signed $38 billion, 10-year military aid package is a “remarkable statement” about the relationship between the two countries. He also said that he does not think any secretary of state has ever spoken to an Israeli prime minister more than he has spoken with Netanyahu.
“There are things we believe we could achieve in the next months, and there are serious concerns that we all have about the security of the region, the need for stability, the need to protect the twostate solution,” Kerry said. “And our hope is obviously that we can find a way to utilize the friendship of our countries to advance what we believe is not only of the highest priority for Israel to provide for its longterm security, but also to create a new relationship within the region that can be powerful in reinforcing that long-term security interest.”
Meanwhile, representatives of the Quartet – Kerry, UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini – met in New York Friday on the last day of the annual General Assembly debate. They were also joined by the foreign ministers of Egypt and France during the second part of the meeting to brief them on their work to support Middle East peace.
The Quartet expressed “grave concern” that “the acceleration of settlement construction and expansion in Area C and east Jerusalem, including the retroactive “legalization” of existing units, and the continued high rate of demolitions of Palestinian structures, are steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution.”
Under the Oslo Accords, Area C of the West Bank is under full Israeli control.
The Quartet also expressed “serious concern” for the “dire humanitarian situation” in the Gaza Strip, which it said is being exacerbated by Israel’s decisions to close crossings, and also for the “illicit arms build-up and activity by militant Palestinian groups, including rockets fired toward Israel.”
Palestinian unity, too, they said, is an issue that must be resolved in order to advance the peace process.
In light of the recent resurgence of Arab violence in Jerusalem, the Quartet called on all sides to “take all necessary steps to deescalate tensions by exercising restraint, preventing incitement, refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric, and protecting the lives and property of all civilians.”
Back in July, the Quartet members presented a report in which they outlined what the group believes are the main threats to the two-state solution and offered practical recommendations to enable an eventual return to peace negotiations.
The threats included the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and Jews living in east Jerusalem.
Last month, Nikolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, slammed Israel during his briefing in front of the Security Council for continuing this activity.
Following that briefing, the PA Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour announced that a Security Council meeting on the issue would be held on October 14 under the informal UN mechanism known as the Arria Formula. The meeting, Mansour said, will focus on practical steps to be taken against Israel’s settlement construction.
Under this format, not all of the Security Council’s 15 member states are required to attend, but they are still expected to.
The Quartet expressed appreciation for Mladenov’s efforts.
This comes amid reports that, because of his recent sharp criticism of Israeli policies, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has directed his ministry’s officials to boycott him.