Netanyahu heads to New York for UN speech, Trump meeting

Netanyahu heads to New York for UN speech, Trump meeting

PM also expected to confer with leaders of Europe and Egypt, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, UN chief Guterres and American Jewish leaders

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 72nd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York, September 19, 2017. (AFP/Jewel SAMAD)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 72nd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York, September 19, 2017. (AFP/Jewel SAMAD)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will take off Tuesday for a trip to New York that will see him address the United Nations General Assembly and hold a one-on-one meeting with US President Donald Trump.

At the center of the trip will be Iran — the country’s nuclear ambitions and its ongoing efforts to entrench itself militarily in Syria — as well as the US administration’s planned proposal for a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu will address the UN on Thursday afternoon, just a few minutes after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will speak to the chamber, but the two are not expected to meet.

Netanyahu will host several other high-profile diplomatic meetings, many of them revolving around efforts to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

During his four-day visit, Netanyahu will discuss bilateral matters and international politics with the leaders of France, Guatemala, Austria and Rwanda, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Netanyahu will reportedly also meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, though the PMO did not confirm the meeting. Last year the two leaders held their first-ever public sit-down on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, right, in New York on September 19, 2017. (Avi Ohayun)

The trip comes amid sky-high tensions with Russia after Moscow blamed Israel for the downing of a spy plane by a Syrian air defense system. On Sunday Russian President Vladimir Putin told Netanyahu he rejected Israel’s claims that it was not responsible, and said the Kremlin would be selling Syria the advanced S-300 air defense system and using radar jamming technology in the region.

Before taking off on Tuesday early afternoon, Netanyahu is set to convene a meeting of the security cabinet to discuss the fallout of last week’s incident, which was sparked when Syria tried to shoot down an Israeli jet carrying out an airstrike near Latakia.

Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in New York late on Tuesday evening, missing speeches to the UN by Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

On Wednesday morning, he will meet with Trump, with talks likely dominated by Tehran’s efforts to entrench itself in Syria and to deliver advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as the US administration’s sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss the White House’s Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal, which administration officials say is nearly finalized and may be published in the coming weeks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and US President Donald Trump shake hands prior to their meeting at the Palace Hotel in New York City ahead of the United Nations General Assembly on September 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

Later on Wednesday, Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales. Guatemala was the first country to follow the US in moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem earlier this year.

Also that day, Netanyahu is set to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Netanyahu recently came under fire at home for an agreement with Poland aimed at ending a diplomatic dispute over Warsaw’s law against blaming the Polish people for Holocaust crimes. Critics said Netanyahu’s government gave a stamp of approval to legislation that obfuscated history.

He is also scheduled to meet with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who has been criticized for allowing a far-right party into his coalition, and with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The meeting with Macron will come days after France and other European countries agreed to create a mechanism with Iran to evade US sanctions set to be imposed in the wake of Trump’s pullout from the nuclear deal. Netanyahu had been among the pact’s most vociferous critics.

On Thursday he will meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, after delivering his address to the General Assembly.

His speech, during which three Israeli ministers — Miri Regev, Ayoub Kara and Tzachi Hanegbi — will be present, is scheduled for 1 p.m. (8 p.m. Israel) but the time is not final and could go as late as 2:30 p.m., his office said.

Abbas is scheduled to address the audience less than an hour before Netanyahu. Abbas’s aides have indicated that he will make a dramatic announcement, possibly declaring the Oslo Accord void, or calling on the world to either actively work toward the implementation of a two-state solution or drop it altogether.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters, September 20, 2017 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

On Wednesday, Abbas is reportedly set to host a conference at the sidelines of the General Assembly to discuss ways to thwart the Trump administration’s forthcoming peace plan. Some 40 nations are set to attend.

On Friday morning, the prime minister is scheduled to meet with American Jewish leaders and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. Both meetings are closed to the press.

Netanyahu is not scheduled to fly back to Israel until Saturday night, though no official events are scheduled for later Friday or Saturday.

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