After canceling meetings, Netanyahu still has busy diplomatic schedule

A host of foreign dignitaries are due in Jerusalem next month amid criticism that prime minister is isolating Israel

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laughs during a conference at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos,  on January 21, 2016. (AFP/FABRICE COFFRINI)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laughs during a conference at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 21, 2016. (AFP/FABRICE COFFRINI)

Despite canceling several high-profile meetings in the wake of the UN Security Council anti-settlements resolution passed last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s diplomatic schedule for the next few weeks is chockablock with encounters with top foreign dignitaries.

Netanyahu has steadfastly maintained that Israel’s international standing is better than ever, while his detractors have accused him of leading Israel toward international isolation with his aggressive diplomatic moves.

In January, two presidents, one chancellor, two prime ministers and three foreign ministers are planning visits to Israel, according to a list the Foreign Ministry published Wednesday. In addition, heads of parliaments, ministers, deputy ministers, MPs and a US governor are scheduled to make their way to Jerusalem.

Even a senior official from a state that voted in favor of Security Council Resolution 2334 is set to visit Israel — Gérard Larcher, the president of France’s Senate. (Larcher is a member of the center-right Republicans party, which is considered more pro-Israel than the ruling Socialists.)

Furthermore, Netanyahu is planning to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 17-20, where he is expected to meet with several world leaders, including some with which Israel does not have formal diplomatic relations. Still, he has reportedly canceled a meeting at Davos with British Prime Minister Theresa May over the UK’s support for the resolution.

As a consequence of Friday’s resolution, which declares Israeli settlement outside the pre-1967 lines as having “no legal validity” and constituting “a flagrant violation under international law,” the prime minister banned senior contacts with officials from the 14 countries that supported the text. (The US abstained, allowing the resolution to pass).

Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, summoned a dozen ambassadors for dressing-downs, canceled foreign aid to Senegal and Angola, disinvited the Ukrainian prime minister, and declined meetings with the leaders of China and Great Britain. He also instructed his ministers to curtail travel to the countries that voted in favor of the resolution, announced a “reassessment of all of our contacts with the UN,” ordered funding cuts to various UN agencies, and vowed that “there’s more to come.”

He also canceled the upcoming visit to Israel of Senegal’s foreign minister, which would have marked the first time a top official from the Muslim-majority West African country arrived in Israel since it re-established diplomatic relations with Jerusalem in the mid-1990s.

Besides France’s Larcher, who is scheduled to arrive on Monday, January 2, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Ernest Bai Koroma, the president of Sierra Leone, and Andrzej Duda, the president of Poland.

Furthermore, the prime minister is slated to meet with his counterparts from Serbia, Jamaica, Croatia and Austria in Jerusalem.

Canada’s foreign minister, Stephane Dion, is likewise arriving in Israel, as are the foreign ministers of Serbia and Norway.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is also scheduled to come to Israel next month, as is Nikos Voutsis, the speaker of Greece’s parliament; Sidi Tiémoko Touré, youth minister from Ivory Coast; and Mmusi Maiman, the head of South Africa’s opposition and leader of the country’s Democratic Alliance party.

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