President Barack Obama on Thursday spoke to American rabbis in a pre-Rosh Hashanah phone call, and told them that security talks with Israel had resumed and he hoped to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu by early next month, The Forward reports.
In his annual pre-High Holidays call to the rabbis, Obama said that he was ready to meet with Netanyahu during the United Nations General Assembly opening session, which starts next week and runs through October 6.
“Our consultations have already begun with Israeli military and intelligence officials,” Obama said, according to The Forward.
“My hope is to have a long discussion with Mr. Netanyahu about these issues when he comes to the United Nations during the General Assembly of the United Nations, or immediately after that,” he added.
The Iran deal was the main focus of the call, the White House noted in a statement after the call.
“Acknowledging the vigorous debate that has occurred within the American Jewish community and in Israel, the president explained that the deal is consistent with his unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, and he expressed his willingness to discuss additional ways to enhance Israel’s security and further strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship as the deal is implemented,” said the statement, noting the call drew 500 rabbis from across the denominational spectrum.
The president also reportedly told the rabbis that he was still dedicated to advancing Israeli-Palestinian Authority peace despite the collapse last year of the last round of talks.
“Israel’s long-term security does depend on somehow resolving the Palestinian issue,” Obama said, according to The Forward. “We’re going to have to work on these issues, and they’re going to be messy and challenging in the years to come.”
Obama said he would stand by Israel on matters of security, but called on U.S. Jews as well as Israel to closely consider the Palestinian question.
“There’s going to have to be some soul searching in Israel and the American Jewish community because they’re tough questions,” he said.
The Iran deal has caused tensions between Obama and Netanyahu, who has been of the agreement’s fiercest critics.
The tensions have been such that Secretary of State John Kerry recently skipped Israel when he visited the Middle East for talks which dealt, among other things, with the Iran deal.
Recently, however, the tensions seemed to have calmed down. Obama recently downplayed the disagreements with Netanyahu. In a webcast in which he addressed the heads of Jewish communities in North America, the president said that “we’ve repeatedly had times where the administration and the Israeli government had disagreements. That doesn’t affect the core commitments we have for each other.”
Kerry has taken steps to improve the strained ties, phoning Netanyahu over the weekend to discuss Iran and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Israel's security.
On Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden met American Jewish leaders ahead of the High Holy Days, telling them the United States wants to meet with Israel to discuss how it can ensure Israel's military advantage over its enemies.
Biden told his guests the U.S. was "fully, thoroughly prepared" to sit down with Israel's intelligence and defense community to ask a simple question: "What do you need?"