Netanyahu open to meeting US presidential contenders; speaks with Australia's PM

Clinton and Trump met with Egypt's President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on Tuesday, with each addressing outstanding issues prevalent in the Middle East.

September 22, 2016 09:32
3 minute read.
Israel US

Trump Netanyahu and Clinton. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would be open to meeting with either US presidential contender Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton or Republican nominee Donald Trump while he attends the UN General Assembly debate in New York, a senior Israeli official said Wednesday.

The official noted that neither candidate has extended an invitation to meet the premier, who is expected to speak before the General Assembly during its Thursday morning session shortly after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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The senior official said that Netanyahu conveyed the importance of speaking to both candidates if meetings were to take place, saying it was crucial to maintain an appearance of impartiality.

"The prime minister's instruction was clear – if we meet with one side, we must also meet with the other side," the senior official added.

Both Clinton and Trump did meet with another powerful leader in the Middle East, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, where they discussed their respective positions on the Middle East, and Egypt specifically on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met briefly Wednesday in Manhattan, exchanging a number of kind words with Netanyahu adding he's making a trip to Canberra in the near future.

"Always a pleasure to meet with you," Netanyahu told the Australian leader at the opening of their meeting.

"You're a great friend of Israel. Australia and Israel have a strong friendship and I am looking forward to my upcoming visit to Australia," added Netanyahu.

After thanking Netanyahu, Turnbull praised Israel's technological ingenuity, boasting how it has "inspired" Australia's own innovation industry.

"Really, start-up nation inspired our innovation... and we will see much more cooperation between entrepreneurial innovation and finance professionals between Australia and Israel."

"This is a very important step," Turnbull continued, "As you know, this is the way to stay ahead in the 21st century: You need technological innovation to meet the challenges and use your imagination to benefit from the technology."

Netanyahu also met with US President Barack Obama earlier Tuesday, where the two spoke on a number of topics including settlement expansion and the desire to reach an agreement on the two-state solution.

“We do have concerns around settlement activity as well, and our hope is that we can continue to be an effective partner with Israel,” Obama said in what was likely the last meeting between the two leaders.

Noting that he will only be in office for another three months, Obama said, “Our hope will be that in these conversations we get a sense of how Israel sees the next few years, what the opportunities are and what the challenges are, in order to assure that we keep alive the possibility of a stable, secure Israel at peace with its neighbors and a Palestinian homeland that meets the aspirations of their people.”

The prime minister did not directly mention the Palestinians in his brief remarks, though he said that he appreciated the many talks he has had with Obama over the years about challenges facing his country.

“The greatest challenge is of course the unremitting fanaticism,” Netanyahu said.

“The greatest opportunity is to advance peace. That’s a goal that I and the people of Israel will never give up on.

“We’ve been fortunate that in pursuing these two tasks, Israel has no greater friend than the United States of America.”

Netanyahu started off the public comments by thanking Obama “for the extensive security and intelligence cooperation” between the two countries, adding that most people do not understand the “breadth and depth” of that cooperation.

“But I know, and I want to thank you on behalf of all of the people of Israel,” he said.

The Israel-US alliance, he added, “has grown decade after decade, through successive presidents, bipartisan Congress and with the overwhelming support of the American people. It is an unbreakable bond.”

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