Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama will meet in New York on Wednesday during the United Nations General Assembly, the Prime Minister’s Office and the White House confirmed Sunday.
Obama and Israel’s prime minister will have a bilateral meeting Wednesday, with discussion topics likely to include the need for genuine advancement of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “in the face of deeply troubling trends on the ground,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.
Earnest said the meeting would afford Obama and Netanyahu an opportunity to discuss “the strong ties between the United States and Israel.”
Netanyahu plans to use a meeting with Obama Wednesday to thank him for a $38 billion defense aid deal inked with the US last week, his office said on Sunday.
“The deal shows the depth of the strategic ties and the bond between Israel and the US,” the statement said.
“Netanyahu plans to speak during the meeting with Obama on the challenges and opportunities in the Middle East and ways to advance peace and security together,” the statement added.
Citing US diplomatic sources, Channel 2 said earlier Sunday that the two leaders would meet, likely at Obama’s hotel.
Netanyahu will arrive in New York for the General Assembly on Wednesday, September 20. High-level meetings of this type are usually announced more than a week in advance.
Netanyahu’s trip will likely be the last chance for a face-to-face meeting between the prime minister and Obama before the US president leaves office in mid-January.
In March, Netanyahu spurned an offer by Obama to meet in the White House, nearly a year after the US president turned down a request from the Prime Minister’s Office for a sit-down in the Oval Office in what was seen as a major snub.
“We were looking forward to hosting the bilateral meeting, and we were surprised to first learn via media reports that the prime minister, rather than accept our invitation, opted to cancel his visit,” White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in an emailed statement in March.
The two last sat down in November 2015 in Washington, where they defied expectations with a generally friendly chat.
Earlier Sunday, Netanyahu rebuffed criticism of the $38 billion, 10-year military aid agreement between Jerusalem and Washington signed last week, accusing “interested parties” of spreading disinformation and showing ingratitude toward Washington.
“I hear all kinds of background noise and disinformation about the agreement,” he said at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting. “I would like to make it clear: We were never offered more. We were not offered more money, not even one dollar, and we were never offered special technologies.”
Netanyahu seemed to be directing his comments at former prime minister Ehud Barak, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and former head of IDF military intelligence Amos Yadlin, all of whom accused the prime minister of reaching an aid package smaller than originally expected.
The new military package will grant Israel $3.8 billion annually — up from the $3 billion pledged under the previous 10-year Memorandum of Understanding — starting in 2018 and through 2028.
The prime minister said the “saddest thing” in his eyes was that the deal’s critics were “showing ingratitude… to our greatest and best friend, the United States.”
“This is an agreement that will greatly strengthen the security of Israel, and we should all welcome it and express our appreciation to the United States,” the prime minister said.
Over the years, Netanyahu and Obama have maintained a tense, at times acrimonious, relationship.
Most recently, last weekend, the US State Department decried a video released by Netanyahu, in which he argued that arguments against Israeli settlements in the West Bank amounted to “ethnic cleansing,” and administration officials have expressed unhappiness with continued Israeli settlement building.
The US administration called Netanyahu’s phrasing “inappropriate and unhelpful.”
In the video, which was posted to the prime minister’s Facebook page, Netanyahu asked whether people in other parts of the world would accept such demands in their own countries.
It’s “outrageous that the world doesn’t find it outrageous,” Netanyahu said, urging viewers to ask themselves whether they would accept “a territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks” in their nation.
“Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?” he asked.
US State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters the administration is “engaging in direct conversations with the Israeli government” about the video.
“We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank. We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful,” Trudeau said.
She said Israel expansion of settlements raises “real questions about Israel’s long-term intentions in the West Bank.”
In December 2015, American officials told The New Yorker magazine that members of the administration see Netanyahu as “myopic, entitled, untrustworthy, routinely disrespectful toward the president, and focused solely on short-term political tactics to keep his right-wing constituency in line.”
Raphael Ahren and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.