Obama presses Netanyahu on peace deal during final meeting

Obama presses Netanyahu on peace deal during final meeting
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President Obama on Wednesday pressured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to work with the Palestinians toward a two-state solution during the pair's final meeting of Obama's presidency.
 
Speaking at the Palace Hotel in New York, Obama said he wants to “keep alive the possibility of a stable, secure Israel at peace with its neighbors and a Palestinian homeland that meets the aspirations of their people.”
 
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The president also prodded his counterpart over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, which he has long called an impediment to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
 
“We do have concerns around settlement activity as well, and our hope is that we can continue to be an effective partner with Israel,” he said. 
 
Netanyahu stressed that he would never "give up on the goal of peace” with the Palestinians.
 
But the Israeli leader pushed back on Obama's argument that settlements are hindering the peace process, a senior administration official told reporters after the meeting. 
 
"They've never papered over their differences," another official said. 
 
The meeting caps off a relationship between Obama and Netanyahu that has often been tense.
 
The bond between the two leaders reached a nadir last year after Netanyahu denounced the U.S.-backed nuclear deal with Iran during a speech on Capitol Hill, which the Obama administration called an unprecedented break with diplomatic decorum. 
 
The president has also been frustrated with Netanyahu’s past comments that cast doubt on the viability of a two-sate solution, which has long been the foundation of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. 
 
In part due to the enmity between the two leaders, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has fallen to the wayside on Obama’s foreign-policy agenda. 
 
Netanyahu has blamed Palestinians for being an unwilling negotiating partner. He's also accused leaders in the West Bank and Gaza of inciting violence amid an uptick in Palestinian attacks against Israeli citizens.
 
The president has acknowledged that a peace deal won’t happen during his time in office. But some foreign policy watchers expect Obama to publicly lay out his vision for an agreement before he leaves office in January. 
 
Despite those tensions, Obama and Netanyahu on Wednesday tried to stress common ground in the U.S.-Israel relationship, which has long been a bipartisan priority in Washington. 
 
Netanyahu playfully referenced Obama's love for golf, saying that during his final months in office, he can spend time on other interests beyond "what I hear is a terrific golf game."
 
"I want you to know, Barack, that you will always be a welcome guest in Israel," Netanyahu adding, saying the president is welcome to play golf at a course near his home.
 
"We'll set up a tee time," Obama joked.
 
They touted a new 10-year, $38 billion military aid deal finalized this month, the largest such agreement in U.S. history.
 
"I want to thank you for the extensive security and intelligence cooperation between our two countries,” Netanyahu said. “I don't think people at large understand the breadth and depth of the cooperation.”
 
Obama said the military assistance “allows Israelis [to] have some kind of certainty in a moment when there's enormous uncertainty in the region.”
 
The White House is hoping the deal assuages not just Netanyahu, but also pro-Israel members of Congress who have long criticized Obama for not doing enough to protect the Jewish state from foreign threats. 
 
A group of Republican senators have said the deal does not go far enough and are pushing legislation that would give Israel an additional $1.5 billion in aid. 
 
“If we’re going to give the Iranians $150 billion of sanctions relief, I think most members of Congress would like to give a little more to Israel in light of that dynamic,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhite House won't move forward with billions in foreign aid cuts GOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death MORE (R-S.C.) said at a news conference Tuesday. 
 
Updated at 3:17 p.m.