Netanyahu to skip UN gathering, forgo Trump meet, to battle for new coalition

US president had planned to discuss mutual defense pact next week with PM on sidelines of General Assembly; Foreign Minister Katz will attend NY gathering on Israel’s behalf

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses world leaders at the 72nd UN General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on September 19, 2017. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses world leaders at the 72nd UN General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on September 19, 2017. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Wednesday he would not travel to New York for the UN’s annual General Assembly next week after failing to secure sufficient support in elections to form a new government with his right-wing political allies.

Netanyahu’s office said he would forgo the trip due to the current “political circumstances,” without elaborating. It will be the first time Netanyahu has skipped the General Assembly since 2010, when then-foreign minister and current political nemesis Avgidor Liberman addressed world leaders at the forum.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz, a member of the ruling Likud party, will attend in Netanyahu’s stead, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The General Assembly opens this year on September 24, a day before the Central Elections Committee is to present the final results from Tuesday’s election to President Reuven Rivlin. The president has until October 2 to task a lawmaker with assembling a government.

Netanyahu’s speeches at the United Nations have focused largely on Iran and have included the use of props, most notably his drawing of a red line on a cartoon bomb symbolizing Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sets out his ‘red line’ for Iran on a cartoon-bomb drawing during a speech to the UN General Assembly, on September 27, 2012. (Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

His absence from the UN means he will not meet with US President Donald Trump, who said over the weekend he looked forward to meeting with Netanyahu after the elections to discuss a Mutual Defense Pact between the United States and Israel.

Netanyahu touted his close ties to Trump in his election campaign and the US president’s comment on meeting him at the UN was widely seen in Israel as indicating the American leader hoped Netanyahu would win the elections.

Netanyahu likewise said he looked forward to meeting Trump and hailed the US president, saying Israel “has never had a greater friend in the White House.”

With over 90 percent of votes counted, Netanyahu’s Likud party was forecast to win 31 Knesset seats, one less than its centrist rival Blue and White. Together with its ultra-Orthodox and right-wing allies, Likud was set to win 55 seats, short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in the Knesset.

The September 17 elections came after Netanyahu failed to form a government after elections in April and instead pushed through a vote to dissolve the Knesset and call a snap poll.

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