ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 144

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Visits to Cyprus, New York and UAE are confirmed

Netanyahu to resume foreign travel in September after health pause

PM is refraining from flying for over a month after he was fitted with a pacemaker; will inaugurate Israeli equivalent of Air Force One in the fall

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L)) and his wife, Sara, ahead of a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris on February 2, 2023. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L)) and his wife, Sara, ahead of a flight from Tel Aviv to Paris on February 2, 2023. (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s international travel will pick up again in September, following a pause after he had a pacemaker installed last month, sources in his office told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

Netanyahu will head to Cyprus on September 3, after his planned July 25 trip was pushed back in the wake of the surgery he underwent two days earlier. Netanyahu will hold a delayed tripartite summit with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis then, said the Prime Minister’s Office.

The prime minister also delayed a trip to Turkey originally scheduled for the same week. New dates have not yet been finalized for that trip.

Netanyahu will fly in mid-September to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly. He could meet with US President Joe Biden during that trip, either at the White House or on the sidelines of the UN gathering.

Netanyahu has been waiting for a White House invitation since he returned to power in late December. After the two leaders spoke in July, Netanyahu’s office issued a readout saying that Biden had invited him to meet in the US. The White House readout made no mention of an invitation and repeatedly downplayed the proposed meeting, leading many to believe it will take place in New York and not Washington.

The prime minister will also make his first trip to the United Arab Emirates at the end of November for the COP28 climate summit in Dubai along with dozens of other foreign leaders. Netanyahu had sought to make the UAE his first foreign destination upon returning to the premiership, but the UAE canceled amid anger in Abu Dhabi over a visit paid by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to the flashpoint Temple Mount.

Left: US President Joe Biden at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Morrisville, North Carolina, March 28, 2023 (AP/Carolyn Kaster); Right: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 19, 2023 (Abir Sultan/Pool photo via AP)

Netanyahu has several other trips in the works, according to a source in his office who would not offer further details.

Netanyahu has not flown since his July surgery, and is waiting the 30 days recommended by his doctors after having the pacemaker inserted.

He will also use, for the first time, the Wing of Zion, Israel’s version of Air Force One, on one of the trips, likely to the UAE.

“The plane is slated to take its first flight at the end of October or early November,” said a source with knowledge of the project’s details. “It is in its final stages in terms of operational competence of the entire support network.”

Israel Aerospace Industries workers union chair Yair Katz unveils Wing of Zion on December 8, 2021. (Israel Aerospace Industries workers union)

The official added the the plane’s manager has begun his work.

The introduction of the plane has nothing to do with the prime minister’s health situation, said his office.

The approximately NIS 750 million ($241 million) project took years to outfit and was intended to be used by Israeli heads of state for official business. But neither former prime ministers Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, nor President Isaac Herzog, has touched the plane, which was commissioned under, and closely associated with, Netanyahu during his previous term in office.

Netanyahu was released from hospital the morning after his pacemaker was installed, which doctors said was needed after he suffered a potentially fatal heart interruption.

A spokesperson for Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan told The Times of Israel that the hospital would not disclose what doctors told Netanyahu when he was discharged, as such information is confidential.

Doctors who implanted the pacemaker later revealed that Netanyahu had suffered a potentially life-threatening “transient heart block.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a video message, explaining that he is going into the hospital to have a pacemaker fitted, early on July 23, 2023. (Screenshot)

A subcutaneous heart monitor implanted a week earlier had registered the danger and issued an alert, prompting Netanyahu’s immediate hospitalization and the fitting of a pacemaker, they said.

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