A senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Friday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be meeting US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month.
The comments by the official put to rest speculation that Netanyahu may be also meeting Biden in the White House, as the prime minister had long been hoping and pushing for.
Netanyahu has yet to meet face-to-face with Biden since he took office more than eight months ago. The White House has repeatedly expressed disapproval of many statements and policies emanating from members of Netanyahu’s hardline government, as well as with the judicial overhaul plan which has roiled the country.
Since Biden’s schedule has yet to be finalized, the exact timing for the meeting with Netanyahu has not been confirmed, the Israeli official said. It is also not yet clear which other world leaders Netanyahu will meet with while he is in town for the General Assembly.
Netanyahu is currently slated to address the General Assembly on September 21, but his speech may be moved to September 22, a Friday.
Such a shift would mean that Netanyahu will have to stay in New York over Shabbat, and return to Israel only Saturday night, landing just before the start of Yom Kippur on Sunday evening — during which Israel’s airspace shuts down.
Ever since he returned to office in late December, Netanyahu has been gunning for a coveted Oval Office sit down with the US president, even as Biden himself has repeatedly castigated the prime minister.
Biden declared in late March that he would not be inviting Netanyahu “in the near term,” saying he was “very concerned” about the health of Israeli democracy amid the judicial overhaul plans pushed by the coalition since it took office in December.
The president made the off-the-cuff remarks shortly after then-US envoy Tom Nides had told Israeli media outlets that such a meeting was likely to come in the wake of him freezing the judicial overhaul legislation. That freeze ended a few months later, and the government has since passed the highly contentious “reasonableness” law, limiting judicial review of government decisions.
In July, Netanyahu’s office announced that Biden had invited him for a meeting, without naming a place. Confirming the invitation at the time, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby noted that the gesture “doesn’t mean we have less concerns about the judicial reform or about the extremists in the Israeli government. We remain concerned.”
Ties between Jerusalem and Washington have been rocky at best since Netanyahu retook power at the tail end of 2022, backed by a coalition that includes far-right extremists. The White House has condemned settlement expansions, rampant anti-Palestinian violence, the threatened erosion of civil liberties and the government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system.