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Get ready for Netanyahu’s whirlwind tour: 5 trips in 3 months

The prime minister’s diplomatic stops will include Turkey, Cyprus and the U.N. headquarters.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, in Rome, March 2023. Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, in Rome, March 2023. Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.

From the beginning of September to December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will go on at least five trips abroad, some of which are particularly important in the diplomatic sphere.

Only last weekend Netanyahu’s planned visit to Cyprus was rescheduled, with his first flight for the season of diplomatic visits now set for Sept. 3-4.

Netanyahu‘s flights to Cyprus and Turkey were canceled last month when he fell ill and had pacemaker surgery. The process, which spanned several weeks, started with a report of dehydration and ended with the prime minister undergoing an overnight procedure to fit him with the device, after which the Prime Minister’s Office reported that the doctors advised Netanyahu to rest, and his trips to Cyprus and Turkey were postponed.

The diplomatic visit to Cyprus will include a meeting with the Cypriot prime minister, a separate meeting with the Greek prime minister, and then a tripartite meeting of the three politicians. The trip to Cyprus was set following the reconciliation between Israel and Turkey, which might have clouded the relations between Jerusalem and Nicosia. Netanyahu intended to first express his commitment to an alliance with Cyprus and Greece, and only then to travel to Turkey.

This arrangement will also be maintained in the prime minister’s new diplomatic schedule. This is the first meeting between Netanyahu and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since the severing of ties with Turkey following the Mavi Marmara events in 2010. President Isaac Herzog took the first steps to “warm up” relations and now it is Netanyahu’s turn.

On Sept. 18-23, Netanyahu will participate in the United Nations Assembly’s annual General Debate in New York, but it is not yet known when he will deliver his speech. The order of the leaders’ speeches is usually arranged about 10 days before the start of the convention, with the order of placement being as follows: kings first, then presidents and prime ministers, and finally ministers.

The trip is expected to take place immediately after Rosh Hashanah, and Netanyahu will fly out one day before delivering his speech.

Joe Biden

As part of his time at the United Nations, Netanyahu will hold meetings with leaders who will also be coming to the gathering. The fact that all the leaders are in the same location makes it possible to schedule bilateral meetings more easily. The full schedule, as mentioned, is expected to be posted closer to the trip.

The long-awaited meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Netanyahu is due to be scheduled sometime between September and October. The White House reiterated its position that the teams are still trying to coordinate the meeting, which is expected to take place in the fall. According to assessments in Jerusalem, the meeting is expected to be held at the White House during those two months. Biden and Netanyahu spoke on July 16, the eve of the Israeli president’s trip to the White House.

The U.S. is closely watching events in Israel, mainly because of the protests against judicial reform. Although only one bill has been passed so far, the White House has repeatedly called upon Israel to reduce the friction and reach a wide consensus with the opposition. Biden said the same to Herzog and pointed out that there are great tasks to be dealt with by both countries and it is difficult to progress due to the tensions in Israel. This is also the reason that Netanyahu reached a decision to actively change his government’s agenda since the Knesset’s summer session ended.

He instructed his ministers and Knesset members not to comment on the legal legislation and instead, to present the administrative work that each one of them is dealing with, with Netanyahu concentrating on three main goals: transportation and infrastructure, high-tech and AI, and fighting the high cost of living.

A change in the agenda could help Netanyahu advance his goals vis-à-vis the U.S., mainly a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia and promoting entry into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. The Biden administration will decide on both issues by the end of the year and the start of the election year in the U.S.

Morocco

Netanyahu’s fifth trip is expected to be to Morocco. In mid-July, an invitation was received from the king of Morocco, following Israel’s announcement that it recognizes Moroccan sovereignty in Western Sahara.

Since then, Netanyahu’s office has reported that efforts are being made to find a convenient date for both sides. This trip to Morocco is expected to be included in the prime minister’s busy schedule in the fall-winter months.

Netanyahu has not visited Morocco since the Abraham Accords were signed in 2020, but ministers in his current government have visited the country many times. It was current opposition leader Yair Lapid who inaugurated formal relations between Israel and Morocco last August, during his tenure as foreign minister in Naftali Bennett’s government.

The grand finale of Netanyahu’s busy diplomatic schedule will be when he joins the Israeli team that will fly to the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference in the United Arab Emirates in November. In May, the UAE invited Netanyahu and Herzog to address the conference. This will also be Netanyahu’s first trip to the United Arab Emirates since signing the Abraham Accords at the White House.

No fewer than a thousand Israelis, many of them businessmen in 30 delegations of various companies who will join the official delegation of the Israeli government led by the Foreign Ministry, are expected to fly to the conference. Even before the trip, Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman is expected to demand the enactment of an important climate law in the Knesset, which will be an official achievement to present at the conference.

Netanyahu’s schedule of diplomatic campaigns is subject to the Knesset’s return from its summer recess and to the extent that he will manage to control the agenda until then and delay additional judicial reform legislation, as some of his coalition partners would like to see.

Another schedule that overlaps with the diplomatic agenda is that of the Supreme Court, which is expected to convene twice in September for a discussion on the Basic Law: Judiciary amendment on the reasonableness clauses (the amendment prohibits judges from striking down government decisions on grounds of “unreasonableness”), as well as the ongoing saga of when the Judicial Selections Committee is convened.

Netanyahu’s diplomatic goals, vis-à-vis the domestic goals that the government coalition set under his leadership have created a collision course and the prime minister will need to successfully maneuver between the challenges at home in order to achieve the goals he has set outside Israel’s borders.

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