As the Ledger went to press, the White House announced plans for President Obama to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week in New York, amid the drama unfolding at the United Nations, where the Palestinian Authority (PA) is expected to make a bid for statehood.
Netanyahu is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on Friday, as is PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama has no plans to meet with Abbas. Netanyahu will also meet with several other world leaders.
“The goal of the meeting is to determine what is the best way to get the parties back together,” said White House national Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes.
The United States has already announced its intention to veto any attempt by the PA to seek statehood recognition in the Security Council. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that she saw a “growing recognition” among the “parties in the region” that it would be best for the PA to abandon their bid for UN membership. However, she would not go so far as to predict that a U.S.-led diplomatic effort to convince the PA to drop the UN bid would succeed.
The White House also announced plans for Obama to meet in New York with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss ways in which to repair that country’s ailing relationship with Israel.
In a statement released before he left for New York, Netanyahu explained his goal at the UN General Assembly.
“The UN is not a place where Israel wins praise, but I think that it is important that I go there in order to represent both the State of Israel and the truth – and the truth is that Israel wants peace and the truth is that the Palestinians are doing everything to torpedo direct peace negotiations.”
Congress weigh in
As the UN General Assembly got under way, there were several moves in Congress to show support for Israel in light of the Abbas’ intention to push for statehood recognition.
On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 14 U.S. Senators – including Connecticut’s Joseph Lieberman and Richard Blumenthal — called on President Obama to issue a strongly worded defense of Israel during his address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. In a letter, the senators highlighted a number of recent, troubling developments in the Middle East, including the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, anti-Israeli rhetoric from Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, and efforts to isolate Israel by unilaterally advancing the resolution on Palestinian statehood at the UN.
In their letter, the senators ask that President Obama “utilize the opportunity offered by your address at the United Nations to reaffirm and explain America’s determination to stand by Israel at this difficult hour.”
“We believe it is imperative for you to speak strongly, forthrightly and publicly about U.S. concerns over these developments. We need to make it clear that we will not tolerate continued threats to Israel by governments or individuals in the region or attempts to delegitimize Israel at the UN or other international forums. Violence and unilateralism against Israel will be met with the strongest U.S. opposition. Political and physical attacks on Israel pose real dangers to the prospects for building Mideast peace and present the possibility of a region-wide deterioration into violence. Israel’s real sense of growing isolation will make it much more difficult to move the Mideast in a positive direction.”
On Monday, Sept. 19, Congressman Joe Walsh (R-IL) and 30 co-sponsors introduced a resolution to support Israel’s right to annex the West Bank in the event that the Palestinian Authority continues to push for a vote at the United Nations.
“It’s clear that the United States needs to make a very strong statement. …If the [PA] continues down this road of trying to get recognition of statehood, the U.S. will not stand for it. And we will respect Israel’s right to annex Judea and Samaria.”
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Sept. 18, Congressman John Boehner (R-OH), speaking at the Jewish National Fund’s 2011 National Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, said ‘Israel has demonstrated time and again it seeks nothing more than peace…a peace agreed to by the two states and only the two states.” It is the duty of the U.S., he said, to stand by Israel “not just as a broker or observer – but as a strong partner and reliable ally.”