Netanyahu, Obama to Meet at U.N.

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with President Obama on Wednesday in New York.

Both leaders are there for the United Nations General Assembly meeting where the Palestinians are planning to ask for full membership as a state in the international body, without the backing of either Israel or the U.S.

Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev said relations between Israel and the Obama administration are better than ever. (That's after two years of some of the worst tensions between the two allies.)

"Over the last four months or so we've had excellent cooperation with the Obama administration and I think it's the best we've had," Regev told foreign journalists in Jerusalem ahead of Netanyahu's departure for the U.S.

Israel is relying on the U.S. to use its veto power in the Security Council to stop the Palestinians from gaining full membership as a state in the United Nations.

Israel and the U.S. say the only way to Palestinian statehood is through a negotiated settlement with Israel. Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled for most of the last three years.

"One of our concerns in Israel is that the Palestinians appear to be separating the issue of statehood from the issue of peace," Regev said. 

According to Regev, an article Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) wrote in the New York Times a few months ago seems to indicate that the  Palestinians want a state "as a superior platform" from which to conduct their struggle against Israel.

"This is the very opposite of the Israeli outlook," he said. "From our perspective, a Palestinian state is about the end of the conflict, not a vehicle to continue the conflict."

Regev says the Palestinians made a commitment 18 years ago to solve all issues of contention with Israel through negotiations.

"Now by refusing to negotiate and by trying to impose through international dictate a solution, they are in clear violation of both the spirit and the letter of signed agreements," he said.

"This is a violation of Palestinian commitments. This cannot help peace. Israel reserves the right to respond. We are following events very closely. We have different options."

Regev declined to say what Israel's options are. Reports say Israeli security forces are preparing for the possibility of an outbreak of Palestinian violence in Israel and the territories in relation to the Palestinian's U.N. declaration.

Regev says Israel is ready to return to the negotiating table at any moment without preconditions and Netanyahu would even talk to Abu Mazen in New York.

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Julie Stahl

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