Netanyahu  - Emil Salman - 11092011
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Emil Salman
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took off yesterday for New York to attend the UN General Assembly. Netanyahu is to meet today with U.S. President Barack Obama after the latter addresses the General Assembly. Netanyahu is to address the General Assembly Friday, a short time after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivers his speech.

A few hours before leaving for Ben-Gurion International Airport, Netanyahu organized a support meeting of Likud lawmakers, to which Likud mayors were also invited. "I know the reception here is much warmer than the one I'll receive at the UN General Assembly, and precisely for that reason I think it's important to go there and present our truth," Netanyahu told the group.

Netanyahu said the wave of revolutions in the region had nothing to do with Israel, but that it obliged Israel to "insist on our rights and our needs."

The prime minister told his supporters that Abbas had turned down his repeated requests to meet with him.

"I told him the road to peace was through direct negotiations and not unilateral decisions in the United Nations. I believe that in the end we'll get there. If the Palestinians want to improve their situation, they'll get there, too" Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu also said the most important thing was to begin negotiations and persist in them, but that "to this moment the Palestinians have not done so and I hope this will change."

Netanyahu said that more and more countries were opposing the Palestinian statehood maneuver in light of the problems it was causing.

"It is much easier to give in to pressure and earn applause from the nations of the world ... We gave major concessions and we see what we have gotten. The mayors of the north and the south will attest to that," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said the danger of a hasty agreement or a unilateral move was "not only missiles on the north and the south but all over the country."

The prime minister said his meeting with Obama would be important to coordinate the efforts on thwarting the Palestinian statehood bid, and to prepare for the possibility that the Palestinians will ask the General Assembly for the upgraded status of a non-member country.

Netanyahu's advisers said yesterday that the Americans were sure to veto a Palestinian approach to the Security Council on statehood, and that the approach to the Security Council - not to the General Assembly - was what mattered.

Netanyahu and Obama are also expected to discuss Israel-Turkey relations. Obama met yesterday in New York with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and asked him to tone down his attacks on Israel. Obama is expected to ask Netanyahu to reconsider Israel's refusal to apologize over the loss of Turkish lives during last year's flotilla to Gaza.

Iran is also on the agenda for discussion with the U.S. president. Defense Minister Ehud Barak met earlier this week with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and members of the American intelligence community, mainly over Israel's concerns of a technological spurt that will bring Iran closer to nuclear weapons capability.

Netanyahu is also expected to devote today and tomorrow to meetings with world leaders, to persuade them to vote against the Palestinian statehood bid.