(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday backed out of attending next week’s World Economic Conference in Davos. But government officials deny this had anything to do the ongoing police investigation against him.
The officials also denied that his decision not to attend the conference – which he has done a number of times in recent years – was connected to the security situation in Israel or with the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20.
Rather, the cancellation has to do with “scheduling problems,” the officials said, and the fact that some of the meetings he had hoped to hold in Davos with world leaders were scratched because some of those leaders will not be attending.
Netanyahu was originally scheduled to leave for Davos on Wednesday, January 18 and return on Sunday, January 22. The New York Post reported last week that the Trump camp was interested in Netanyahu attending the inauguration, but there was no confirmation in Jerusalem that an invitation had been extended.
Netanyahu will face a busy diplomatic week beginning on Sunday, with the convening in Paris of a Middle East peace conference. Netanyahu has expressed his strong opposition to the meeting, and Israel is lobbying its allies to send only low-level delegations to it.
Washington, for instance, has not yet decided whether US Secretary of State John Kerry will participate or perhaps a lower-level diplomat instead.
On Monday, the EU’s foreign ministers will be meeting in Brussels and are expected to issue a statement on the Middle East that will incorporate elements from both last month’s anti-settlement resolution in the Security Council as well as Kerry’s highly critical speech of Israel a few days later.
On Tuesday, the Middle East Quartet – made up of the US, the EU, Russia and the UN – is scheduled to meet in New York to discuss the diplomatic process, and yet another discussion on the Middle East is scheduled to take place that same day in the Security Council.
Three days later, Trump will be inaugurated. But US President Barack Obama – in portions of an interview with Channel 2’s Ilana Dayan that were broadcast on Monday – questioned whether Netanyahu will “sleep better” after that date.
Asked whether he had any other Middle East surprises “up his sleeve,” or whether Netanyahu “can sleep well until January 20,” Obama replied: “There is an interesting question as to whether he will sleep better after January 20.”
Obama took issue with characterizations that his decision not to veto the anti-settlement resolution in the UN was tantamount to stabbing Israel in the back, saying that type of “hyperbole” doesn’t have any “basis in fact.”
These comments might “work well with respect to deflecting attention from the problem of settlements, they may play well with Bibi’s political base, as well as with the Republican base here in the United States, but they don’t match up with the facts,” Obama said.
He also defended taking action at the UN just days before leaving office, saying, “The fact of the matter is that I am president until January 20, and I had an obligation to do what I think is right.”