Netanyahu apparently not to meet Obama during US visit
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Netanyahu apparently not to meet Obama during US visit

Likely last chance for sit-down during UN confab next week not in cards amid tensions between Washington, Jerusalem over 'ethnic cleansing' video

US President Barack Obama, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. AFP/ SAUL LOEB)
US President Barack Obama, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. AFP/ SAUL LOEB)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will apparently not meet with US President Barack Obama on his trip to the United States this month for the United Nations General Assembly.

Though the Prime Minister’s Office has refused to officially confirm that a meeting between the two leaders will not take place, no schedule for such a confab has been set.

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 Netanyahu and Obama before the US president leaves office in mid-January.

The apparent missed connection comes as Netanyahu has indicated willingness to pursue peace efforts with the Palestinians under the auspices of Moscow, after an American effort fell apart in 2014.

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.

Over the years, the two leaders have maintained a tense, at times acrimonious, relationship.

Most recently, this 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.

I'm sure many of you have heard the claim that Jewish communities in Judea Samaria, the West Bank, are an obstacle to peace.I've always been perplexed by this notion.Because no one would seriously claim that the nearly two million Arabs living inside Israel – that they're an obstacle to peace. That's because they aren't. On the contrary.Israel's diversity shows its openness and readiness for peace. Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one pre-condition: No Jews.There's a phrase for that: It's called ethnic cleansing.And this demand is outrageous.It's even more outrageous that the world doesn't find this outrageous. Some otherwise enlightened countries even promote this outrage.Ask yourself this: Would you accept ethnic cleansing in your state? A territory without Jews, without Hispanics, without blacks?Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace?At this moment, Jewish schoolchildren in Judea Samaria are playing in sandboxes with their friends.Does their presence make peace impossible?I don’t think so.I think what makes peace impossible is intolerance of others. Societies that respect all people are the ones that pursue peace. Societies that demand ethnic cleansing don't pursue peace.I envision a Middle East where young Arabs and young Jews learn together, work together, live together side by side in peace.Our region needs more tolerance, not less.So the next time you hear someone say Jews can't live somewhere, let alone in their ancestral homeland, take a moment to think of the implications.Ethnic cleansing for peace is absurd.It's about time somebody said it.I just did.

Posted by ‎Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו‎ on Friday, 9 September 2016

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 contributed to this report.

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