(JTA) – U.S. President Barack Obama expressed concern about settlement activity and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called America Israel’s best friend as the two leaders sat down for what is likely their final meeting.
The leaders met Wednesday afternoon in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
“We are concerned about settlement activity,” Obama told reporters at the start of the meeting at a Manhattan hotel. “I want to hear from the prime minister about the situation in the West Bank and the latest violence.”
“We need to keep alive the possibility of a stable, secure Israel at peace with its neighbours, and a Palestinian homeland that meets the aspirations of their people,” he also said.
Obama opened his remarks by wishing a recovery to former Israeli president Shimon Peres, who suffered a stroke a week ago.
Netanyahu said that “Israel has no bigger friend than America and America has no bigger friend than Israel” and peace “is a goal that I and the people of Israel will never give up on.”
He thanked Obama for the recently signed 10-year, $38 million US military aid agreement, which Netanyahu said “ensures that Israel can defend itself against any threat.”
Netanyahu told Obama that he always will be a welcome guest in Israel, calling him by his first name and inviting him to his private residence in Caesarea, where he said the president could improve his already terrific golf game.
“I will visit Israel often after I am president because it is a beautiful country,” Obama replied, and told Netanyahu to set up a tee time. Obama leaves office in January.
The leaders were scheduled to discuss the recent wave of violence in Israel, the advancement of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the continued implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran and other regional security issues, the White House said earlier this week when it announced the meeting.
Obama mentioned Israel just once during his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, urging the Palestinians to end incitement and Israel to halt settlement building.
Netanyahu will address the General Assembly on Thursday.