The prime minister met with the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the UN and is scheduled to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the first time since 2016 and with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Mossad head David Barnea accompanies Netanyahu to meetings to provide an intelligence review on Iran
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met this Tuesday evening with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, in a meeting that opens his round of political meetings there. Later Tuesday evening he will also meet with Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His meeting US President Joe Biden is scheduled for Wednesday. At the same time, the protest against Netanyahu continues - as hundreds gathered carrying Israeli flags to protest in Times Square.
The meeting with Scholtz began at 6:45 p.m. and lasted about an hour. The head of the Mossad, David Barnea, also attended the meeting, and he will also accompany Netanyahu to his subsequent meetings at the United Nations, including with Zelensky and Erdogan. Netanyahu invited him to provide an intelligence review on the extensive Iranian assistance to Russia's war efforts in the area of UAVs, as well as on the Iranian nuclear program and the negotiations for an agreement with Saudi Arabia.
Netanyahu thanked Scholz for his commitment to Israel and Germany's commitment to national security and the preservation of the special relationship. The two leaders discussed Iran's defiant actions in spreading global terrorism and striving for nuclear weapons, and the prime minister stressed to the chancellor that Tehran's announcement regarding the removal of some of the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from its nuclear facilities should not be accepted.
In addition, the two discussed the tightening of security cooperation between the countries, led by the agreement for the supply of the Arrow 3 air defense system that was recently concluded. This is the continuation of the strategic dialogue between Israel and Germany, which took place recently under the leadership of the national security advisors of the two countries.
After the meeting with Sholtz, the prime minister is scheduled to meet with Paraguayan President Santiago Peña, who promised to return his country's embassy to Jerusalem. At 10:25 p.m. Netanyahu is also expected to meet with Zelensky for about half an hour, and finally at midnight he will meet with Erdogan.
Hundreds of Israelis began protesting in Times Square waving Israeli flags, singing, shouting and chanting "shame" and "democracy stands." Next to the protesters is a truck on which videos of Netanyahu speaking at the United Nations are screened showing his nose is as long as Pinocchio. Shani Louboutin-Granot, one of the protest organizers in New York, said: "We came here to tell what is really happening in Israel, and the truth about the determined fight for democracy The Israeli, the struggle of the people of Israel who are not willing to give up and will not bow down to those who try to dismantle it from within."
Some of the protesters said that he is afraid that "Israel will turn into Tehran, it's time to come." An Israeli woman passing by the demonstration attacked the protestors and asked: "Where is the money? The economy is booming, why are you shaming us?" Vice President of the Reform Movement Josh Weinberg, who is participating in the demonstration, said that he does not believe a word that Netanyahu says. "Liberals who are committed to democracy, freedom, equality and pluralism, we stand here together and say that if Israel is not a democracy - it cannot be Jewish either," he said. "We are here to protect human rights, political rights, women's and LGBT rights."
The meeting with Zelensky is the first meeting of an Israeli prime minister with the president of Ukraine since the outbreak of the war with Russia. Zelensky hopes to hear news from Netanyahu regarding the Ukrainian request to receive defense systems and technologies to intercept Iranian drones. He also expects to receive a promise from Netanyahu to pay a solidarity visit to Kiev, as most world leaders have already done.
Netanyahu is the only Western leader in the world, apart from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has not come to Kyiv. So far, the Prime Minister's Office has avoided the visit for security reasons, but the Ukrainians say that if US President Joe Biden was able to come there is no reason why Netanyahu should not come. The Israeli Foreign Ministry also strongly recommended Netanyahu to make this visit.
The meeting with Erdogan is also important. The last time Netanyahu met him was in 2016 - and since then there has been bad blood between the two. It seems that now Erdogan is ready to turn a new page with Netanyahu, but expects news regarding the gas pipeline from Israel to Turkey.
A full hour was scheduled for Wednesday's meeting with Biden. For Biden, the main issue will be the judicial overhaul. He expects to hear from Netanyahu a commitment to reach as broad an agreement as possible on changes to the judicial system. Netanyahu will make it clear to Biden that he is indeed trying to reach such an agreement, but will claim that he encountered resistance from the opposition. A hint of this could be heard in what he said to Elon Musk Monday, when he admitted that Levin's original reform was bad - and he corrected and balanced it. But it is not clear that this will be enough to calm Biden.
Those around Netanyahu hope that the prime minister will be able to get Biden to commit to a date for another meeting later this year at the White House. In response to Ynet's question before takeoff on whether he is not disappointed that Biden did not invite him to the White House, Netanyahu replied: "What is important is not the place, but what we will talk about."
Another and central issue that will come up is Saudi Arabia. It is very important for Netanyahu to understand if Biden intends to go all out on reaching a normalization agreement, because this is a big bet for him in the run-up to an election year
Netanyahu will also raise the Iranian threat. For Netanyahu, the International Atomic Energy Agency's announcement that Iran canceled visas for a third of its inspectors is important and serves the Israeli message. Netanyahu will try to coordinate with Biden regarding the steps to be taken against Iran in light of its violations, and how to create deterrence against a country that is close to having a nuclear bomb.
Another issue that will surely come up in the talks is the issue of the visa exemption for Israelis. It is likely that Biden will inform Netanyahu if it indeed appears that Israel will join the program - and the official announcement of this is expected at the end of September.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan commented a few days ago on the expected meeting and said that "President Biden will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss a variety of bilateral and regional issues that focus on the common democratic values shared by the two countries and the vision to make the region stable, more prosperous and integrated. In addition, they will discuss effective ways to oppose Iran and deter it."
Israel's ambassador to the US Mike Herzog and Israel's ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan welcomed the Netanyahus when they landed earlier Wednesday in New York - and around the hotel dozens of protesters were waiting for the prime minister and his wife with flags that read "shame" and waved protest signs.
Itamar Eichner is Ynet and "Yediot Ahronoth" correspondent in the prime minister's entourage to the US; Daniel Edelson is based in New York