update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Biden, Netanyahu to meet on sidelines of UN General Assembly

An Oval Office meeting will not take place during Netanyahu's trip to the United States, following an internal White House debate on the matter.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on March 9, 2016. Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on March 9, 2016. Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.

U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week, according to Axios.

It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two men since Netanyahu returned to power nearly nine months ago.

Three U.S. officials confirmed to the news site that the two leaders will not meet at the White House and that an internal debate occurred in Biden’s political circle regarding whether they should meet at the Oval Office or at U.N. headquarters, with some supporting the White House meeting and others pushing for a meeting in New York.

Two of the officials said that last Tuesday U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Netanyahu and informed him that Biden’s schedule would not allow for an Oval Office meeting but that they could meet in New York.

One U.S. senior official said that many in the White House thought that an Oval Office meeting would damage Biden’s standing in the Democratic Party. A second U.S. official said that several of Biden’s aides were concerned about the possibility of thousands of Israeli and American Jews descending on the White House to protest the meeting. A third U.S. official said that some of Biden’s advisers argued that an Oval Office meeting would send the wrong message about the president’s views regarding the Netanyahu government’s judicial reform effort and policies.

Two Israeli officials told Axios that Netanyahu pressed Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog to secure him a meeting at the White House. Israeli officials also pressed the White House for an Oval Office meeting ahead of the U.N. General Assembly, according to the Israeli officials.

Israeli and U.S. officials said that Sept. 22 was discussed as a potential Oval Office date. The White House did not comment on the matter.

Netanyahu will also meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk told Hebrew media on Tuesday. It will be the first in-person exchange between the two leaders since Netanyahu became prime minister again at the end of December.

Netanyahu is scheduled to visit San Francisco next week ahead of his speech at the UNGA in New York, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Sunday.

Netanyahu will depart Israel on the evening of Sept. 17 following the conclusion of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and land in San Francisco the next day.

While in California, Netanyahu is expected to visit Silicon Valley for a tour of the tech industry, according to local reports. Netanyahu may also meet with X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk, according to Israel’s Channel 12.

The Israeli prime minister stressed to Musk during a telephone conversation in June the need for governments to understand both the opportunities and the dangers of artificial intelligence, and conveyed his view that the Jewish state could become a significant global player in the field.

After spending the day in Silicon Valley, the prime minister will travel to New York City, arriving there on Sept. 19.

In the Big Apple, Netanyahu is slated to address the U.N. General Assembly, with his speech likely to take place on Friday morning. Netanyahu will remain in New York over Saturday, flying back shortly before the start of Yom Kippur on the evening of Sept. 24.

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