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Netanyahu fears Obama may act against Israel before leaving office

Israel's prime minister expects the US to continue to block anti-Israel resolutions at the UN Security Council
Relations between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu declined after Netanyahu bitterly opposed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (AFP)

Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is concerned that US President Barack Obama might take action against Israeli interests at the United Nations prior to leaving office as US criticism of its settlement building intensifies.

Netanyahu's statement late on Wednesday came after speculation that Obama could break with recent US practice and support - or at least not veto - a UN Security Council resolution to lay out parameters for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel fears such parameters would include a time frame for resolving the conflict and demands for action against illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, which have been condemned in resolutions previously adopted at the world body. 

On Wednesday, the Palestinian UN ambassador Riyad Mansour called for a harsh Security Council resolution against Israel’s settlement activities. He urged the council to adopt a resolution aimed at curtailing Israel’s continued settlement with threatening "consequences."     

There has been speculation that Obama could also give a speech before leaving office in January that would clash with Israeli interests. Relations between the Obama White House and Netanyahu have seemed cool, especially after the prime minister openly opposed the US nuclear deal with Iran in July 2015 and even travelled to Washington to lobby lawmakers there to reject it.

Netanyahu's statement warned that "in the past, [US] presidents at the end of their terms had promoted initiatives which were not in accordance with Israel’s interests".

The prime minister added that he hoped this was not about to be repeated and that he "expects the US not to change what has historically been its policy for decades: to prevent anti-Israel resolutions in the UN Security Council".

Netanyahu's office issued the statement in response to a report by Israel's Channel 2 television.

The report quoted him as saying in a private meeting that "the entire settlement enterprise is in existential danger" during the interim period between the US presidential election and when Obama leaves office. Netanyahu's statement denied that he had said this during the meeting with Israeli settlers.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu spoke by telephone with US Secretary of State John Kerry in a bid to calm Washington's anger over new Israeli settlement plans.

Settlements in the West Bank are viewed as illegal under international law and a major stumbling block to peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

The United States has warned that continued settlement building in the territory occupied by Israel in 1967 is eating away at the possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict.

Settlements are a key political issue within Israel, with those in favour advocating that Jews must return to their biblical homeland, including the West Bank.

Netanyahu's government is seen as the most right-wing in the country's history and key members of his coalition openly oppose a Palestinian state.