Netanyahu cancels UN General Assembly appearance over election results

It was reported that Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz will speak in the prime minister's stead.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, at the Jerusalem Theater (photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara Netanyahu, at the Jerusalem Theater
(photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)
There will be no speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN General Assembly that opens next week, as Tuesday’s inconclusive election result has forced him to cancel plans to fly to New York, address the world body, and meet US President Donald Trump.
Instead, Netanyahu will be in the thick of coalition negotiations. This will be the first time in nine years that he will not address the parley. Foreign Minister Israel Katz will do so instead.
Trump, told reporters on Wednesday that he has yet to speak to Netanyahu following the election.
“We knew it would be close,” said the president. “We’ll see what happens. Our relationship is with Israel.”
According to the UN schedule, Netanyahu was listed as the 12th speaker on September 26, the third and final day of speeches by world leaders. He was scheduled to come to the podium to speak just three slots after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
But the country’s political calendar has intervened. On Wednesday, the day before the planned speech, President Reuven Rivlin will receive the official election results, and then he must pick one of the candidates to form a government. Netanyahu obviously does not want to be out of the country at that time.
In addition to giving his speech to the UN – something he clearly relishes – Netanyahu was also planning to meet Trump on the sidelines of the UN meeting. Trump will speak to the body on Tuesday, and tweeted on Saturday that he would be meeting Netanyahu to discuss an Israel-US defense pact.
Netanyahu has spoken as prime minister at the UN General Assembly on 10 different occasions: first in 1998, and then every year since he became prime minister for a second time in 2009, with the exception of 2010.
That year, Avigdor Liberman – his foreign minister at the time and currently his political nemesis – 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, often 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.
Although Netanyahu has made the UN speech a fixture on his calendar during this decade, it has not always been the case that Israel’s prime minister addresses the world body.
In the first decade of this century, the body was addressed by an Israeli prime minister only three times: 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.
Omri Nahmias in Washington contributed to this report.