Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped U.S. President Barack Obama would not back any new United Nations Arab-Israeli peace initiative in his final weeks in office.
“I very much hope President Obama will continue the policy he enunciated,” Netanyahu said Tuesday in a video address ending the annual Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly.
Richard Sandler, the chairman of the JFNA’s board of trustees, had asked Netanyahu to comment on the prospects of Ara-Israeli peace and had read to him a 2011 statement by Obama saying the resolution of the conflict was best left to the parties, and not to outside actors.
There is concern in Israel and among some pro-Israel groups that Obama in his final weeks will back a U.N. push to recognize a Palestinian Arab state or to lay down the parameters of a final status agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Obama has not indicated so far plans to do any such thing.
The setting of parameters, Netanyahu said, “will harden the Palestinian positions, it will push peace back, push peace back decades.”
Sandler’s first question was about the status of an agreement to allow fuller access for egalitarian services, where men and women pray together, at the Western Wall. Sandler’s question – and his praise of Netanyahu for his attempts to advance egalitarian prayer – earned applause from the 3,000 or so Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders in attendance.
The JFNA Board of Trustees this week sent Netanyahu a letter expressing a “growing sense of urgency” among American Jews, as a tentative solution has been blocked for now in the courts by Orthodox interests in Israel.
Netanyahu said the situation was “complicated” and appealed for an end to public pressure on him from American Jews.
“Sometimes you need quiet diplomacy between Jews and Arabs. This is one instance where we need quiet diplomacy between Jews and Jews, that’s a lot more likely to get the unity we seek,” he said.
Netanyahu also said he looked forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump.
Speaking before Netanyahu, and appearing in person, was Chemi Peres, the son of Shimon Peres, the Israeli founder who died in September.
Peres earned cheers from the crowd when he praised Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee who lost last week’s presidential election to Trump – but there was a wave of laughter when he wished Trump good luck as president.
Peres, in wishing the best to Trump, hinted at concerns his father had expressed before he died, that Trump’s insularity – his calls during the campaign for a rollback of American influence – would be bad for the world and for Israel.
“This partnership between us – between Israel and the United States – was always of the highest importance to my father,” he said. “He, who worked with 11 presidents, saw America as a nation who rose to greatness by giving and not by taking, and whose support of Israel is unparalleled.”