Netanyahu off to Munich talks, leaves legal woes behind

The prime minister is expected to meet several leaders and warn of Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Benjamin Netanyahu
Signaling a business-as-usual attitude in the face of significant legal woes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to the Munich Security Conference on Thursday, less than 48 hours after the police recommended he be indicted for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Netanyahu will be in Munich for three nights, returning to Israel on Sunday. Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said there was never any discussion about canceling the trip in the wake of the police recommendations
Netanyahu, the first Israeli prime minister to ever attend the prominent annual conference, is scheduled to hold a lunch meeting with economic leaders on Friday and address the 600-strong conference on Sunday. He is also expected to meet with a number of the world leaders who will be in attendance, though a final list has not been released.
One senior Western diplomat said that it is unlikely that the recent events will have an impact on which leaders will want to meet with Netanyahu, or how effective he will be on the international stage.
“Nobody will second-guess whether they should meet him because of the police recommendations,” the diplomat said. “They will all ask their embassies for advice, and whoever they ask will say, ‘Listen, there is a long process still ahead. This is only a recommendation, the attorney-general still has to decide.’ That the whole thing is not pretty? Sure. But politics is not a beauty contest. He is in charge, he is in power.”
This will be the second high-profile conference Netanyahu has attended in less than a month, having gone in January to Davos for the economic summit there. Mossad head Yossi Cohen is also scheduled to take part in the Munich conference.
The theme of Netanyahu’s remarks, according to officials in the PMO, will be encountering Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, an issue that has gained greater urgency as a result of Saturday’s military action against Syrian and Iranian targets, which resulted in the downing of an Israel Air Force F16, following the incursion of an Iranian drone.
Some of the key actors in Syria are expected to attend the summit, including Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, as well as their Russian and Turkish counterparts, Sergei Lavrov and Mevlüt Cavusoglu.
The US will be represented by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats.
The following leaders will also be attending: the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak.