Netanyahu likely won't address UN General Assembly for 1st time since 2011

Election action will probably nix meetings with Trump, other world leaders

July 3, 2019 04:57
2 minute read.
Binyamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu points to a diagram of a bomb at the UN.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israel’s do-over election scheduled for September 17 will likely force Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to forgo speaking this year at his favorite speaking venue: The UN General Assembly.

This year the General Assembly’s high level debate, where leaders from all over the world address the world body, does not conflict with Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, which it has done many times in the past, but rather with the election calendar.

The debate begins Tuesday, September 24, a week after the elections. Netanyahu is expected to be deep in the thick of post-election coalition-formation machinations at that time, and will most likely be unable to drop everything to fly to New York and give a speech at the UN – regardless of how much he enjoys giving that speech, and how important it might be.

Netanyahu has spoken as Israel’s prime minister at this forum on 10 different occasions: the first time in 1998, and then every year since he became prime minister for a second time in 2009, with the exception of 2010.

In 2010, Avigdor Liberman – his foreign minister at the time – went in his stead, and gave a speech that contradicted Netanyahu’s positions at the time on the Palestinian issue.

Netanyahu has made it a point to deliver Israel’s speech at the parley ever since – for the last eight years running – often times using soaring rhetoric and aided by props – such as in 2012, when he pulled out a diagram of a bomb to illustrate Israel’s redlines concerning Iran’s nuclear program.

The General Assembly meeting in the fall also generally affords the prime minister a meeting with the US president, as well as with other world leaders.

Although during this decade Netanyahu has made the UN speech a fixture on his calendar, it has not always been the case that Israel’s prime minister addresses the world body.

For instance, in the first decade of the current century, the body was addressed by the Israeli prime minister only three times: by Ehud Barak in 2000, Ariel Sharon in 2005 and Netanyahu in 2009.

Shimon Peres addressed the event three times, once as president in 2008 and twice as deputy prime minister and foreign minister, and Silvan Shalom and Tzipi Livni addressed the forum twice each in their roles as deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

If Netanyahu does not attend this year, Israel could be represented there by Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, who would be serving in that position in a transitional government.

That Netanyahu is unlikely to travel to New York in late September, where he would ordinarily meet US President Donald Trump, has raised some speculation that he might travel to meet the US president earlier, something that could once again help him in his election campaign.

Trump welcomed Netanyahu to the White House in late March, just two weeks before the April election, and announced US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a move widely viewed as designed to give Netanyahu a pre-election boost.

Israeli prime ministers generally meet the US president in America at least twice a year: generally while on trips to address AIPAC in Washington in the spring, and while attending the UN parley in New York in September.

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