US Vice President Mike Pence speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ARIEL SCHALIT/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to fly to Warsaw Tuesday night to take part in a US-Polish sponsored conference on Mideast peace and security expected to focus largely on Iran that will include representatives from at least 10 Arab states.
Netanyahu is the only head of government scheduled to attend, with the other 60 states sending representatives at the ministerial or deputy ministerial level.
US Vice President Mike Pence will also attend, and is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu
on Thursday. The prime minister is also scheduled to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Prime Minister's Office has not announced whether he will meet any of the representatives of the Arab countries scheduled to attend.
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz announced earlier this week that the list of Middle East countries, in addition to Israel, sending representatives include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Tunisia.
The Palestinian Authority turned down an invitation, and called on other Arab countries not to attend, arguing that the real goal of the parley is promote normalization between Israel and the Arab countries – something the PA opposes until an agreement is reached with Israel on the basis of a two-state solution along the 1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.
Czaputowicz said “a dozen or so countries have not replied to our invitation while a few decided not to come.” He did not name the countries who declined the invitation, but among the states noticeably absent in the list he gave were Qatar, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria and Turkey.
On Thursday, the central day of the conference, the leaders of Turkey and Iran will be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi to discuss the situation in Syria.
Czaputowicz said that all 28 EU countries will be represented at the Warsaw conference.
Pompeo announced the meeting in January during a visit to Bahrain, and said at the time that it will “focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence.”
Since then, however, the anti-Iranian aspect of the meeting has been downplayed, in favor of a focus on peace and security issues in the Middle East.
Nevertheless Netanyahu, when he discussed the meeting Sunday at the weekly cabinet meetings, said “the first issue on the agenda is Iran – how to continue preventing it from entrenching in Syria, how to thwart its aggression in the region and, above all, how to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.”
Even though the Palestinian Authority is not sending a representative, the Israeli-Palestinian issue is expected to be discussed among the participants, as Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, and Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special representative for international negotiations, are scheduled to attend. The two are expected to roll out Trump’s long-awaited Mideast peace blueprint sometime after the April 9 Israeli elections, and reportedly will update participants at the meeting on the plan.
Netanyahu is not scheduled to meet with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki during this visit. The Polish prime minister, along with his other Visegrad counterparts from Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, will be coming to Jerusalem next week for a summit of the Visegrad countries.
Israeli-Polish ties were badly strained last year over Polish legislation – later amended - that would have made it a crime to assert that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust.
On Thursday, Netanyahu is scheduled to go the Ghetto Heroes Monument at the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto which commemorates the 1943 ghetto uprising. He is also scheduled to visit the Museum of the History of Polish Jews also at the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto.