Netanyahu, Rouhani to address UN General Assembly at end of month

Israel, US put out brief communiqués from just-completed strategic dialogue that illustrates difference of focus.

September 13, 2014 23:56
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are expected to square off again in separate speeches to the UN General Assembly later this month in New York.

Rouhani, who in his speech to the world body last year tried – and largely succeeded – in putting a softer, gentler image of Iran than the one left by his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is scheduled to address the UN this year on September 24, the first day of the general debate.

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Netanyahu is expected to speak either on September 29 or 30. The general debate runs this year from September 24 to 30. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is also expected to address the annual assembly.

After weeks of waiting to see whether the situation in Israel would stabilize after the Gaza conflict and allow Netanyahu to travel to New York, sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said on Saturday night he is expected to attend.

Netanyahu is anticipated to fly after Rosh Hashana – which this year is a three-day holiday because it is followed immediately by Shabbat – on September 27 at night, and to return to Israel before Yom Kippur, which starts on Friday night, October 3.

Plans are under way to set up high-level meetings with other state leaders attending the conference, as well as with US President Barack Obama.

Netanyahu last met with Obama in March in Washington.

Even as the world’s focus is shifting to fighting radical Sunni Islam, Netanyahu is likely during his speech to place a large focus on Iran, with which the world powers are restarting nuclear negotiations later this week.

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz gave a hint of this theme when he returned over the weekend from leading Israel’s delegation to Washington for the biannual strategic dialogue with the US and issued a statement saying the “civil war in Iraq will be solved, but the world will have to deal with a nuclear Iran for dozens of years to come.”

A comparison of the brief summations of the meetings released by Steinitz’s office and the State Department illustrates an interesting difference in what each side chose to bring to the public’s attention.

According to Steinitz’s statement, the discussions focused on the Iranian nuclear talks, in advance of the restart of nuclear negotiations, as well as on fighting Islamic State and other jihadist terrorist organizations in the region, and the rehabilitation of – and humanitarian aid to – the Gaza Strip.

The State Department did not mention Iran, but spoke only in very generic terms about the US and Israel engaging in “a wide-ranging discussion of developments in the region and reinforced their shared commitment to fight terrorism and to prevent threats to regional stability.”

The State Department communiqué was more expansive about Gaza, however, stating that the two sides “discussed the recent conflict in Gaza, and the importance of reaching a durable peace and an end to the cycle of conflict. The two delegations also agreed on the urgent need for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance to support the people of Gaza, and underscored the importance of strengthening the Palestinian Authority.” Nothing about the Palestinian Authority was mentioned in Steinitz’s communiqué.

And, finally, the State Department statement said that the US “reiterated its concern about continued settlement activity in the West Bank.” No sign of that appeared in Steinitz’s read-out.

The US delegation was headed by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.

Meanwhile Communications Minister Gilad Erdan wrote on Facebook Saturday that whoever speaks of “diplomatic opportunities” with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas is repeating the mistakes of the past and could be endangering Israel.

Erdan, who is expected to accept an offer to become Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said he entered politics to protest against the Oslo Accord, which was signed 21 years ago Saturday.

“I believe Abbas who wrote in 2002 that ‘Israel made its biggest mistake ever when it signed the Oslo Accord,” Erdan said. “Abbas wrote that ‘In Oslo [the Palestinians] took land for nothing in return.’”

Gil Hoffman contributed to this story.

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