Five Things Obama and Netanyahu Will Discuss at U.N. in 'Last Meeting'

U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 9, 2015. The relationship between the pair disintegrated in the final year of Obama's time in office. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

An official in Benjamin Netanyahu's office on Monday refused to confirm the meeting between the Israeli Prime Minister and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly as the "schedule was still being worked out." But the Israeli press reported that the showdown between the frosty allies would be set for Wednesday.

There has been no love lost between the pair in their time dealing with each other in their respective positions, locking horns about a wide range of issues, seeing the relationship between the historic allies hitting its lowest ebb in recent years. It will likely be their final face-to-face meeting before Obama leaves the Oval Office in January and it will be the President's final farewell at the United Nations as American leader.

The meeting could also be the final time Netanyahu hopes to see Obama across the table, with the U.S. Presidential election pitting two candidates more favorable to Israel's positions in Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Aside from the necessary pleasantries, here are the five issues that may get the pair's attention in their 17th official meeting, believed to be taking place at Obama's New York hotel.

Israeli-Palestinian peace and the settlement enterprise

The primary reason for Obama's meeting with Netanyahu. His administration has repeatedly expressed concern about continued Israeli settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, territory that the Palestinians have earmarked for any potential future state.

It has been reported that Obama is considering announcing a proposal for peace between Israel and the Palestinians before the end of his term. Whether he plans to outline this in New York remains unclear, but Israel has rejected any initiative that proposes anything other than bilateral talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, without preconditions.

Moscow has now taken the lead as the main player attempting to broker peace between the two sides, with both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly agreeing to meet in the Russian capital, although no date has been agreed. But Obama will still make his point heard.

"The meeting also will be an opportunity to discuss 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," Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.

Record military aid deal

Last week, the U.S. and Israel signed a $38 billion military aid deal, the largest in the history of relations between the two powers. Israel's former head of military intelligence Major General Amos Yadlin criticized the deal as being less than the previous agreement, blaming Netanyahu's Congress speech for the lacklustre deal. But Netanyahu countered the domestic criticism on Sunday, calling such remarks regarding the deal "ingratitude."

He is expected to thank Obama for getting the deal across the line before he leaves the White House but most of the talk will likely be reserved for unfinished business rather than deals already done.


The meeting will take place in the shadow of a bomb blast in New York's Manhattan district of Chelsea, which injured 29 people, another two explosions in New Jersey, the discovery of a pressure cooker device near the Manhattan explosions and a stabbing attack in Minnesota claimed by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

Israel has faced a wave of violent attacks by Palestinians against civilians, soldiers and police since October 2015, spurred by what they say is a crippling military occupation and violations at a contested Jerusalem holy site. Netanyahu will likely use the meeting, or his speech at the U.N., as not only an opportunity to send Israel's condolences to the American people after the attacks but to link the battle of both countries against violent extremism, as he has done in previous U.N. speeches.


The Israeli leader has been a fervent opponent of the Iranian nuclear deal signed between world powers and Tehran in July 2015, that sought to pull back Iran's nuclear program in return for a lifting of a crippling international sanctions regime on the Islamic Republic's economy. He addressed the U.S. Congress without an invitation from Obama, breaking diplomatic protocol and bringing the pair's relationship to its lowest ebb in their shared tenures.

In August, Netanyahu rejected Obama's statement that Israeli officials now support the Iranian nuclear deal, saying that its position on the deal "remains unchanged," pledging to continue to hold "Iran's feet to the fire" and prevent it acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran routinely threatens Israel with destruction.

The addition of hardline far-right Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to his cabinet has emboldened the Netanyahu government's rhetoric, with the ministry comparing the nuclear deal to the 1938 Munich Agreement signed between European powers and Nazi Germany. It is an issue that Netanyahu may raise with Obama, particularly the deal's influence on Iran's funding of extremist groups in the Middle East fighting Israel, such as Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Palestinian militant group Hamas.

But Bibi may wait for Obama's successor before he once again ramps up his opposition to the deal, with Trump threatening to rip the deal to pieces if elected.


As Washington and Moscow continue to negotiate over the fate of Syria and an end to hostilities in the country, Israel, a neighbor of Syria, has found itself involved. At the pair's last meeting in Washington, Netanyahu said that any agreement on Syria must take Israel's interests into account, with Israel still holding the Golan Heights after capturing the territory in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Israel's possession of the territory remains unrecognized by much of the international community and Syria still disputes Israel's control of the Golan, viewing it as an occupied territory. The Syrian regime's forces have fired several rockets at the Golan in recent weeks, pushing the Israeli Air Force into a response, striking Syrian government positions across their shared border. In November, Netanyahu reportedly asked Obama about potential U.S. recognition of Israel's control of the territory but this was rebuffed.

Netanyahu will once again lobby for Israel's interests in his meeting with Obama but with just four months to go to the end of his term, he is unlikely to bring up U.S. recognition of Israel's control of the territory, likely waiting until Obama's successor fills his seat.