TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama will meet in New York on Wednesday during the United Nations General Assembly, to discuss the recently concluded U.S. military aid agreement.
The Prime Minister’s Office and the White House confirmed the meeting Sunday, with the latter adding that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will also be discussed.
The White House stressed the urgency of advancing a two-state solution “in the face of deeply troubling trends on the ground,” spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.
He added that the meeting would provide the leaders with an opportunity to discuss “the strong ties between the United States and Israel.”
Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister will use the meeting to thank Obama for the $38 billion defense agreement.
“The deal shows the depth of the strategic ties and the bond between Israel and the U.S.,” a statement from the PMO 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.
The two are likely to meet would meet at Obama’s hotel, Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
Netanyahu is due to arrive in New York on September 20 for the United Nations General Assembly.
The announcement of the meeting comes as a surprise, with many having speculated that the two would not meet since such high level meetings are usually publicized more than a week in advance.
The meeting will probably be the last time the two will sit down for a meeting before Obama’s term is up.
Obama famously snubbed Netanyahu by refusing to host him in the Oval Office in 2015. A year later, the Israeli prime minister, in an unprecedented move, turned down an offer by Obama to meet in the White House.
“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 following Netanyahu’s own snub.
The last time the two met was in November 2015 in Washington, defying expectations with a reportedly amicable encounter.
The two leaders have had a frosty relationship as well as maintaining sharply contrasting views on policy – Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed his disapproval of the U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran while Obama has opposed Israel’s settlement enterprise, or Jewish construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
During Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu spurned criticism of the military aid package.
“I have been hearing all kinds of background noise and disinformation about the agreement,” he said. “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.”
Former prime minister Ehud Barak, former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon and former head of IDF military intelligence Amos Yadlin have all accused Netanyahu of settling for a smaller amount.
The prime minister said the “saddest thing in his eyes” was the critics’ lack of gratitude “to our greatest and best friend, the United States.”
“This is a landmark deal that will greatly strengthen the security of Israel, and we should all embrace it and express our appreciation to the United States,” the prime minister said.